Understanding the differences between privacy & security

As we discuss online rights and freedoms, it is often hard to understand what is meant by relatively simple terms like privacy and security.

These two terms are often incorrectly used as synonyms. But, data security is not privacy. Privacy is also not data security. These two terms are often used interchangeably, but there are distinct differences as well as some similarities.

Data security and privacy have a common goal to protect sensitive data. But, they have very different approaches for achieving the same desired effect. Data security focuses on protecting the data from theft and breaches. Privacy governs how data is being collected, shared and used.

Privacy, Security, & Windows

One of the best analogies I’ve used in the past to describe the similarities between privacy and security is relating it to the windows on your house.

Privacy is like closing the curtains or blinds on a window in your house.

Privacy is often defined as the right of an individual to keep his/her individual information from being disclosed. This is typically achieved through policies and procedures. Privacy encompasses controlling who is authorized to access your information; and under what conditions information may be accessed, used and/or disclosed to a third party.

Security is like locking the doors and windows on your house.

Security is defined as the mechanism in place to protect the privacy of information. This includes the ability to control access to information, as well as to safeguard information from unauthorized disclosure, alteration, loss or destruction. Security is typically accomplished through operational and technical controls.

Your responsibility

These expectations are obviously changing as new technologies become more ubiquitous. These are also changing as our actions in public spaces are under review by businesses and other entities.

Advances in electronic surveillance require that we understand and discuss evolving expectations of privacy and security in these new and digital spaces. These are discussions that we need to conduct regularly as we re-examine and re-negotiate over time.

Please review this post for more guidance on reviewing and reinforcing your digital hygiene.

This post was originally posted at wiobyrne.com.

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About the author

Ian O'Byrne

Dr. W. Ian O’Byrne is a educator, researcher, & speaker. His work centers on teaching, learning, and technology. He investigates the literacy practices of individuals as they read, write, and communicate in online & hybrid spaces.

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