Privacy vs. security: A duo as iconic as Batman and Superman, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, and Woody and Buzz Lightyear. Each of these duos work together quite successfully, but they are just as strong, admired and acclaimed on their own.  

Similarly, privacy and security are the heroes of the data and information world — each regulates, supervises and protects user and organizational data. Separately and together, these information standards are crucial to technological growth.

Premium protection services can help support privacy and security measures, both individually and collectively. Before investing in either, learn more about the differences between privacy and security, the role of compliance and how to protect yourself from unauthorized data collection.

What Is Digital Privacy?

Digital privacy is an individual’s right to keep digital information —personal and professional — confidential. Most online users agree their privacy is worth protecting, especially when sensitive data is at risk.

There are multiple types of digital privacy, including:

  • Information privacy
  • Data privacy

Each type of digital privacy refers to the individual right to choose who can access and who can collect personal information. Due to digital privacy rights, many organizations must report what information they collect, how they store it and what they use it for.

Blue monster grabbing a laptop from behind to represent digital privacy.

Importance of Data Privacy

Data privacy is important for protecting the sensitive information of all online users. Various organizations — like Google, Facebook and Amazon — collect personal data like:

  • Names
  • Addresses
  • Usernames
  • Passwords
  • Phone numbers
  • Payment and card information
  • Email addresses
  • Driver’s license numbers

Prioritizing digital privacy can help protect vulnerable parties from dangerous actors, including hackers and other cybercriminals.

What Is Digital Security?

Digital security refers to the protections individuals and organizations take to defend their personal and professional information. Digital security is a broad topic, and there are a few distinct types of security that cover certain security measures and timelines:

  • Cybersecurity: protection of data and information from unauthorized actors
  • Data security: protection of data and information across its entire lifecycle

Additionally, digital security refers to the act of protecting digital privacy. While security isn’t a right — like privacy is — it is a public possibility for those willing to enforce their own protections.

Cybersecurity, data security, and zero trust security are three types of digital security.

Cybersecurity Tools

Effective cybersecurity uses a variety of methods and tools to protect sensitive data, including:

  • VPNs: Web surfing is privately protected anywhere with a VPN, which masks locations — physical and virtual.
  • Firewall: Firewalls provide information systems extra protection against hackers and bad actors.
  • Encryption: Encrypted data is usually more difficult to hack than unencrypted data.
  • Antivirus software: Antivirus software helps users identify potentially dangerous applications and remove malicious digital actors.
  • User authentication: User authentication protections — like two-factor authentication and OAuth — help keep unauthorized users out of data systems.

Security Without Privacy: Is It Possible?

Security without privacy is possible, but it’s difficult to achieve and is strongest when paired with digital privacy. Additionally, organizations can still share and sell user information — if included in their privacy policy — while supporting strong internal security systems. While privacy without security is nearly impossible to support, security without privacy is commonly maintained.

Privacy vs. Security

Privacy and security often work hand in hand, but there are a few major differences between the two.

When discussing digital privacy, users consider:

  • The use and control of data
  • How privacy prioritizes the individual
  • Legal protections that vary by age, type of information and location

When discussing digital security, users consider:

  • Data protection
  • How security prioritizes both individuals and enterprises
  • Security is not legally protected

Privacy and security are substantially different, but the success of data and information transfers depends on their collaboration. Maintaining both can decrease the possibility of both public and private data security breaches.

DefinitionHow data gets used, stored, and controlledHow data gets protected
UsersIndividual-centricIndividual- and enterprise-centric
LegalityProtected rightUnprotected measures
ThreatsIndividually managedSystem managed
ExpectationUsers decide how personal data gets usedSecurity system owners protect and store gathered data
Privacy AgreementRequiredNot required

Privacy and Security vs. Compliance

Compliance refers to whether or not an organization or individual meets the simplest requirements of a law, rule or standard. Frequently, digital privacy and security laws maintain some form of compliance expectation, and regulation compliance requires users to consider privacy and security together. 

There are multiple levels of compliance that dictate whether privacy or security gets prioritized. For example, there are different compliance expectations for these standards:

  • HIPAA: Compliance expectations agree privacy and security are equally important.
  • HIV status: Compliance expectations prioritize privacy while security is a secondary expectation.

In many cases — HIPAA included — compliance can quickly become a legal requirement in the case of data security and privacy. Users who fail to meet compliance expectations can be legally prosecuted for failing to protect the private information of covered individuals.

Which Is More Important?

Privacy and security are usually equally important, but compliance expectations and user or organizational priorities can affect the importance of each. Before assigning importance levels to privacy and security, understanding a standard’s levels of compliance is necessary. 

If worse comes to worst, it’s usually best to consider privacy and security a collaboration rather than a competition — allowing each to support the other.

Privacy and Security: 6 Protection Tips

Privacy vs. security should be less of a competition and more of a supportive partnership. To support both, individuals and organizations can follow specific protection tips:

Privacy and security can be protected by VPNs, antivirus software, and more.

1. Browse With a VPN

Whether you want to access content prohibited in your country or want to protect your personal data with additional security, consider using a VPN. This type of security tool masks a public IP address and protects data from third-party actors. Even if a cybercriminal hacks your connection, a VPN will continue to protect and encrypt data.

2. Communicate With Encryption

Sharing sensitive data digitally isn’t recommended, but it can be protected through end-to-end encryption. Encryption stops eavesdropping cybercriminals from being able to read and record digital communication, protecting the privacy of the sender and receiver. Specific forms of encryption — like AES encryption and PGP encryption — can be used to protect data across specific platforms.

3. Limit Social Sharing

Individuals can protect their privacy and support individual security by limiting what they share on social platforms. A digital footprint — which is the trail of an individual’s online activity — can be traced. If a user shares private information like credit card numbers, passwords, legal names, addresses and phone numbers on social platforms, they can be tracked and stolen by cybercriminals.

4. Utilize a Password Manager

Digital password managers are security systems individuals and organizations can use to store and protect passwords. This type of security can be free or paid, and authorized users can pass internal information between themselves. Users also use password managers to store unique usernames and passwords for multiple accounts, which can also increase security and privacy.

5. Try Ad Blocking

For web surfers, it’s possible to download ad blockers and cookie-blocking extensions to protect personal data from unauthorized collection. However, it’s important to research potentially malicious browser extensions before downloading anything to a device.

6. Install Antivirus Software

Antivirus software options — for various devices like iPhones and Android — can help protect devices from data-stealing malware. Additionally, anti-malware software can alert users to potentially dangerous apps, websites and other software.

Other security precautions, like private search engines, can also help users support privacy and security. With specialized protective downloads from Panda Security, you can turn privacy vs. security from a competition into an individually beneficial collaboration.

Sources: | IBM | Varonis