Privacy vs. Security: Exploring the Differences & Relationship

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Both security and privacy are important in the physical and digital worlds. Privacy is the right to control how your information is viewed and used, while security is protection against threats or danger. In the digital world, security generally refers to the unauthorized access of data, often involving protection against hackers or cyber criminals. Privacy involves your right to manage your personal information, and security is the protection of this information. Both are equally important aspects of cyber safety. You have privacy rights and should take measures to secure your personal information and data within the digital environment.

Security & privacy explained

Computer security and privacy often overlap; however, they do pertain to two different things. Privacy is your personal information and how you allow it to be accessed and viewed. In contrast, security is the protection of this data and information. When you download a new app on your smartphone, you are often asked to agree to a privacy policy. This policy will detail what information the app is going to collect and how it will be used. It is up to you to decide if you agree to the terms or not. With security, the goal is to safeguard your data and information, often through cybersecurity products and measures. Cybersecurity deals with deflecting unauthorized access to your data through leaks or breaches using security technologies and tools.

Definition of privacy

Privacy, in short, is the right to be free from interference or intrusion — the ability to be left alone without being watched. Information privacy refers to the right to have control over how your personal information and data are collected, stored, and used. Privacy policies are in place to protect sensitive information and safeguard your identity. Privacy is often about using sensitive information responsibly. Organizations are required to be transparent about what forms of data they intend to collect, the purpose of the data collection, and where and with whom it is to be shared. As the user, you have to accept these terms and conditions; therefore, you have the right to control your shared information.

Importance of data privacy

Privacy is one of the most important consumer protection issues as technology continues to expand, more information is digitalized, and more measures exist to collect data. Businesses and apps often store data, such as this information:

  • Name
  • Birthdate
  • Address
  • Email
  • Phone number
  • Credit card or bank details
  • Information on health and activities

This data can be vulnerable to cybercriminals for the purposes of identity theft. Nearly 5 million fraud and identity theft reports were received by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2020, and close to half of all American adults were victims of financial identity theft. Information privacy is vital to keeping users safe from hackers and cybercrime involving the theft of personal information.

Security defined

Security involves measures taken to be protected from danger, threat, or harm. It often refers to safety. In the digital world, cybersecurity is typically the protection of data and sensitive information against potential breaches or leaks, often at the hands of cybercriminals or hackers. Security is the act of keeping your private information and data secure, and ensuring it is not accessed by any unauthorized sources. Cybersecurity can involve a number of tools and methods, including these:

  • Firewalls
  • Network limitations
  • Security software
  • User authentication
  • Internal security measures

Need for security

A new cyber attack starts every 40 seconds. Cybercrime is evolving at rapid rates, costing businesses and individuals billions of dollars and countless hours of hassles. The more advanced technology gets, the more reliant we are on it, and the more sophisticated cybercriminals become to attempt to access secure information. This makes security practices even more important. Security measures are necessary to protect sensitive data and personal information that is shared online and elsewhere. Our dependence and use of technology can make us vulnerable. Security is a vital means for keeping users safe and our information private.

Security vs. privacy

The main difference between privacy and security is that privacy involves how your data is used and controlled, while security protects this data. Security can exist without privacy, but the reverse is not true. Computer security and privacy are both equally important for managing personal and sensitive information and data. In general, privacy refers to details about you directly and how you wish to share them. Security keeps you safe from potential threats. Cybersecurity, therefore, involves securing data from unauthorized use or access. In terms of data, privacy refers directly to how companies are able to collect, manage, store, and control the use of data that you provide. Personal privacy has often been considered a luxury not available to everyone, while security has long been deemed essential. Public security has regularly been valued over privacy; however, a lack of personal privacy can become a public security issue. While different, security and privacy both need to be maintained.

Laws regarding information privacy & security compliance

There are several security and privacy compliance laws that exist to protect your data and personal information. Companies that are found to be noncompliant face large fines, suspension of business actions, and even potential prison terms. Privacy laws seek to manage sensitive information, while security compliance laws work to protect data. In the United States, more than 100 federal and state laws exist to protect data of US residents. Here are some examples:

  • Gramm Leach Bliley Act (GLBA): protects information in the hands of financial industries
  • Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA): protects credit information
  • Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA): protects information in the hands of healthcare providers
  • Family Educational Right and Privacy Act (FERPA): protects student records in the hands of educational agencies and institutions, and provides access to authorized students and parents

Tips for protecting your privacy & security

To help keep your information secure, you should protect your privacy and use security measures. Follow these tips:

  • Limit your social media presence and the data you share online.
  • Read the organization’s privacy policy in its entirety before agreeing and accepting the terms.
  • Keep your social security number (SSN) secure, and avoid distributing it when possible.
  • Use multifactor authentication to log in to secure sites.
  • Install and use security software.
  • Use a VPN when on public WiFi.
  • Ensure your router is secure, and use a firewall.
  • Consider identity theft protection services.
  • Use different passwords for different sites and applications. Make each password complex, or consider a passphrase instead.

Once your data is online, it is no longer in your direct control. Be careful whom you share this information with. Be sure that you know exactly what they are collecting from you, how they intend to secure and protect your private information, and whom they are going to share this data with. Being informed and aware can help protect both your privacy and security.


What Does Privacy Mean? (2021). International Association for Privacy Professionals (IAPP).

Facts + Statistics: Identity Theft and Cybercrime. (2021). Insurance Information Institute (III).

Cyber Security Statistics 2020. (May 2021). IT Chronicles.

Personal Privacy vs. Public Security. (May 2018). Tech Crunch.

USA Data Protection Laws and Regulations 2021. (June 2021). The International Comparative Legal Guides and the International Business Reports (ICGL).