What is the origin of the phrase

You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide.

I see it occasionally bounced around, sometimes as an authoritarian slogan. Brief research indicates some think it was coined by Goebbels, some by Orwell.

Is the true origin known?

  • 3
    What makes you thing this has a particular "origin"? It is a fairly generic statement that has doubtless been independently uttered countless times throughout history, and not only in English.
    – tchrist
    Dec 27, 2014 at 21:07
  • 2
    It is an appallingly false platitude.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 28, 2014 at 0:07
  • @HotLicks Could be Mark Twain. He reveled in such plain-spoken idiocies. Dec 28, 2014 at 0:19

1 Answer 1


You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide.

The phrase - widely used in discussions of Internet security and uttered by Pius Thicknesse in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - is most commonly attributed to Joseph Goebbels in 1933.

However, there is an earlier precedent. Upton Sinclair used an inverted version in 1918 in The Profits of Religion: An Essay in Economic Interpretation:

Not merely was my own mail opened, but the mail of all my relatives and friends—people residing in places as far apart as California and Florida. I recall the bland smile of a government official to whom I complained about this matter: ‘If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear.’

  • 2
    Good find. I suppose 'an earlier precedent' can make sense, though I wouldnlt use it here. Dec 27, 2014 at 23:44
  • 1
    The inverted version has a different meaning.
    – gerrit
    Nov 4, 2015 at 19:17

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