What’s the Difference Between Privacy vs Security?

Far from interchangeable terms, security and privacy are both important cybersecurity concepts within their own rights. In this blog we will break down the differences between privacy and security in the digital landscape, and explain some of the key ways of taking control of both elements. Having a strong understanding of both privacy and security is essential for the safety of your devices and your personal information when using the internet.

At a Glance

Before we get into more detailed descriptions of privacy and security, we can summarize the differences with a brief definition and simple example.

Both terms relate to data. Privacy regulations dictate how your data is handled, and security measures ensure that this data is protected.

Example: When liaising with a travel agent, an email containing your personal information is forwarded to someone who doesn’t have permission to see it. This information remains within the company and isn’t shared any wider. While this is frustrating and potentially distressing, it doesn’t cause any financial loss or long-term harm to you or your assets. This is a breach of privacy, not a security issue.

If the travel agency’s system lacks proper security measures and is hacked by cybercriminals, leading to your bank details being stolen and resulting in you losing money, this is a security issue that has also infringed upon your privacy.


Privacy is the term that’s used in reference to your control over your personal information, or how your information is used by a business or company. For example, the settings that dictate how much information people can read about you on social media are called privacy settings. There are privacy policies involved whenever you are in a situation that requires you to give your personal information to an individual or company, especially ones that operate online.

Privacy regulations are driven by regulations and governments. Organizations have been found to be breaching privacy laws are subject to fines and penalties. A breach of privacy can be a company using your personal information in any way other than what they explicitly stated (and you agreed) they intended to do with it, such as selling it to third parties.

You can also use the term privacy when referring to the right to keep your online activities private. Threats to your online privacy include data mining, keystroke monitoring and unwanted access to your search history. There is software available to help you maintain a high standard of privacy and prevent you from being tracked.

You have a right to control how your personal information is stored and shared. It’s important to always read the fine print on online privacy agreements for this very reason.


Digital security refers to protecting your data and sensitive information from outside threats and leaks. It covers how data is stored and extra measures to ensure it is properly protected. Without proper security in place, all digital assets become vulnerable to being compromised through cyberattacks.

Taking out proper security measures can include regular patches and updates to software, making sure it’s running smoothly and capable of dealing with the latest cybersecurity threats. It can also involve using security enhancing software, and running regular scans and checks for any sign that the security of a device, system or network has been compromised.

Without proper digital security measures in place, individuals and organisations are vulnerable to cyberattacks. This includes viruses, malware, phishing scams, data leaks, and identity theft. In this way, weakened security poses a risk to your privacy.

Privacy vs Security


Refers to the rights you maintain over your personal information. Refers to the level of protection that covers your devices, systems and networks.
You can review and grant privacy permissions to any individual or organization looking to use your personal information. You can choose to add extra layers to your security through software, to enhance the level of protection that comes with an operating system’s original settings.
If an organization or individual has been found to be mishandling your information and breaching privacy regulations they can be fined. Criminals that break through security measures are often hard to track and punish, and can cause irreparable damage to funds and reputation.

Achieving a Balance

So while privacy and security are not necessarily the same, they do often intertwine with each other, and having a solid understanding of both concepts is key to protecting your assets and information. There are actions you can take to improve both your online privacy and security, such as shielding your online activity from threats such as spyware.

When it comes to protecting your privacy online, it’s important to question just how much of your personal information an organization really needs, and what they intend to do with it. Avoid oversharing online, avoid being encouraged to save your bank details to retail websites for ease of use, and keep a record of exactly who has what information about you. When a breach to someone else’s security may result in a breach of your privacy, you should focus on the element of the equation that you have control over.

With security, make sure that you avoid any situations that might jeopardize the integrity of your devices, such as following suspicious links, downloading things from the internet without checking the reliability of the source, or responding to unusual messages.

Practical Implications

One great way to protect your privacy and boost your security is by using a VPN. A VPN will prevent your online activity from being tracked, encrypt your data, and ensure that your personal information isn’t recorded or logged anywhere online while browsing. It’s a useful tool for someone who frequently has to use public Wi-Fi, which can be notoriously unsecure and an easy way for hackers to gain access to your devices.

While companies that store your personal information have a duty to guard it and use it legally, it’s important to take ownership of your privacy and security whenever possible.

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