Privacy vs Security - What's the Difference and Why Should You Care?

Both privacy and security are crucial if you want to protect your personal information. But what is the difference between privacy vs security?

Until not long ago, we didn't have to worry about privacy and security all that much. Remember when all the technology we used to come in contact with were the phones that only hold a small number of text messages and call logs? Not to mention, there were no internet connection or apps that could compromise the security and privacy of our logs.

In today's era, where technology has become part of our daily routine, things have changed.

Now it's more important than ever to stay aware of the risks that come with using technology for most of our actions. From checking emails and interacting with our peers, to online shopping and online banking, we share most of our private information with the devices we interact with. And because the internet is a window that makes it possible for cybercriminals to access your private data if you don't protect your information properly, it's crucial that you learn more about both privacy and security.

Often enough, the terms of privacy and security get mixed up or are referred to as a whole. But they are not the same. And you may be wondering what the difference between privacy vs security actually is.

Why should you care? Well, for your online safety, it's important to have both privacy and security.

We'll go over what both privacy and security are and what is the difference between the two, why you should be cautious about your privacy and security, along with some tips about how to keep yourself safe online to avoid becoming a victim of internet hacking.

What are privacy and security?

Privacy and security are not estranged to one another but are actually closely related. While privacy refers to the control you have upon your private information, security refers to how this information is protected.

To better understand the difference between privacy vs security, let's take a closer look at what each of them actually is.

What is privacy?

Privacy refers to the rights you have to manage your personal information and how it is used if you share it with other entities or if it gets collected while surfing online.

Noticed those privacy policies you're asked to agree to when you're registering for an online account or when you download an app on your device? Well, in the privacy policy the company you're interacting with states what type of personal information they log about you and what they are allowed to do with all the information they gather.

Another example of actions related to online privacy is the browsers, such as Chrome, keeping logs of your online activity, tracking information such as your browsing history, location, and devices used.

A simple, yet powerful definition of privacy from Privacy International states:

Privacy is a fundamental right, essential to autonomy and the protection of human dignity, serving as the foundation upon which many other human rights are built.

This statement is genuine for both our privacy in the real world and the digital world. It is essential to who we are as it gives us the freedom to express ourselves without judgment and to control who knows what about us.

While technology made it easier than ever to protect our privacy, the methods for others to tracking our activities have also increased. Nowadays, companies and the government are able to monitor all our conversations, online transactions, and all the locations we've been at. Gathering enough data gives entities the possibility of learning about our past, how we think, and even to predict our future actions. Doing so can not only affect our perception about society and the market, but can also result in our personal information being exploited, and not necessary for the good.

The biggest challenge when it comes to privacy? You're not always aware that your privacy might be compromised.

Not only the internet is full of websites, apps, and software that are trying to hide the fact that they are collecting private information. But how many times have you clicked to agree to a privacy policy you haven't actually read? Most of the times, we are not even aware of what permissions we give companies regarding our private data, a mistake that could lead to terrible results.

What is security?

Security refers to how your personal information that we talked about above is protected.

Online security can represent a simple act of installing antivirus software on your computer to prevent malware from getting its way across, or it can be a whole complex system containing various security rules designed to prevent credit card theft.

Security, simply put, is the layer of protection you add to a computer, device, or even an online platform so the user data and privacy can't get compromised by hackers or cybercriminals.

The websites you're registering to, the services you're using, the apps you install - all the companies you provide your personal information to should have resources to provide a secure environment for their users' data so they make sure cybercriminals can't hack their ways into stealing users' private information.

Besides the online security, the internet provides you with, there are also additional prevention measures individuals can turn to such as using a firewall, installing an antivirus, using encryption software.

How does online security gets compromised?

Because we are using the internet for almost anything, this places lots of our personal information out in the open and makes us possible targets for hacker attacks.

There are various ways in which a hacker can gain access to your private information you might not be aware of. From malicious software such as Adware or Spyware is hidden in pop-ups to numerous types of malware such as viruses, worms, Trojan, and keyloggers.

While you have no power upon the security of the platforms you provide your personal information with (besides making sure it's a genuine platform/app with a strong layer of security), the responsibility to secure your computer and devices falls in your hands.

The difference between privacy vs security

The difference between privacy and security is best explained by the following example.

Let's say you register for an account on a website and you provide them with some personal information. what could happen with your private data?

  • Both the privacy and security are on point - The website uses your personal information to register your account and safely protects the data.
  • Compromised privacy but security on point - Your personal information gets sold to third-parties by the website. Keep in mind that there are chances you agreed to this in the privacy disclosure. In this case, your personal data will get shared with more eyes than you might've wanted.
  • Compromised privacy and security - This happens when the website's security weaknesses get exploited by cybercriminals who will steal users' private information. This action is known as a data breach. Following a data breach, your personal information can end up on the black market and, depending on the information, you can even become the victim of cyber fraud or identity theft.

Another great analogy that properly explains the difference between privacy vs security comes from a CSOonline article:

Consider a window in your home. It provides various functions for you. It allows you to look outside. It lets sunlight into your home. A window keeps weather outside. You can open a window to let in fresh air. In an emergency, you can use a window as an exit. A window is also vulnerable. Just as you can use it as an egress, others can use it as an entrance. To protect against unwanted visitors, you can put bars or a grate in front of the window. This still allows you to keep all of the desired functionality the window provides. This is security. Just as you can look out a window, others can look in. Preventing unwanted eyes from looking in can be addressed by putting a drape, a curtain, or a shade inside of the window. This is privacy. Obscuring the view inside of your home also provides a little security as intruders may not be able to tell when you are home or see the things you own.

Both privacy and security are crucial if you want to protect your personal information and, basically, your identity in the online world.

Tips to protect your privacy and security

Use a cybersecurity product

Some software can protect both your privacy and security at the same time.

One of the best examples is a VPN service (Virtual Private Software). The VPN creates a safe tunnel for your online activity, encrypting all the data that's being sent or received to/from your computer. Simply put, no one is able to see what you're doing online.

Regarding privacy, the VPN helps you by blocking websites, ISPs, and internet browsers from tracking your online activities and information. In terms of security, a VPN helps by protecting you from others' accessing your private information and data.

Be aware of the information you share

You might be stunned to find out how many things only a single company knows about you and your online activity. Name, address, emails, phone numbers, visited locations, text messages, call logs - these are only a couple of things you might be sharing with your internet browsers, social media platforms, apps.

It's important to review the privacy policy each time you register for a service so you clearly know what personal information you allow them to track and what they can do with it.

To get a better idea of how much information a company can gather about you, take a look over our article:

Secure your computer

The first step into protecting your online security is by making sure the devices you're using are secured so you prevent cybercriminals from being able to hack into your private information and other data.

You can enhance your computer's security by using a firewall and installing antivirus software. Learn more about how these two will keep your security protected from our articles below.

Secure your smartphone

Your computer is not the only one that can end up with compromised security. Smartphones can get hacked too. And there are chances that your smartphone holds even more personal information than your computer does as we carry our mobiles everywhere and anytime.

These being said, you should take a look over our articles going over the best tips to improve your smartphone's security.

To help you protect your online privacy even further, we gathered together the best tips for strong online privacy.

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