Privacy vs. security: What’s the difference?


Privacy relates to any rights you have to control your personal information. Security refers to how your personal information is protected. Some people regard privacy and security as pretty much the same thing, but they aren’t the same, and knowing how they differ may help you to protect yourself in an increasingly connected world.

When it comes to maintaining your cyber safety and protecting your sensitive information, it’s a good idea to have both privacy and security. But what’s the difference?

Privacy and security are closely related. Privacy is any right you have to control and determine which of your personal information need to be left alone and which can be used or exposed. For instance, when you visit a new site or download an application on your smartphone, you’ll be asked to read and agree to their privacy policies.

On the other hand, security refers to how your personal information is protected and the measure used for safeguarding your data. Security is absolutely vital for protecting your privacy. One of these two may be affected due to vulnerabilities in the other. For example, if your personal data is leaked, then your security is highly affected. Similarly, weak security measures can lead to the exploitation of your privacy.

Some people regard privacy and security as pretty much the same thing. This is because often, these two aspects overlap in a connected world, but they aren’t the same, and knowing how they differ may help you to protect yourself in an increasingly online world that's getting vast every day.

What’s the difference between privacy and security?

Here’s an example. You may need to share some of your sensitive information with your bank when opening a bank account. What happens after that? Here are three possible outcomes regarding your personal data (not to the money you may have deposited in the account).

  1. Your privacy and security are maintained. First, the bank uses your information to open your account. Then, they provide you with products and services and go on to protect your data.
  2. Your privacy is compromised, and your security is maintained. In this scenario, the bank sells some of your information to a marketer, a third party. Note: You may have agreed to this in the bank’s privacy disclosure unknowingly. The result? Your personal information may be going into the wrong hands.
  3. Both your privacy and security are compromised. Let’s say the bank gets hit by a data breach. In that case, cybercriminals can penetrate a bank database, breach security. Your information is exposed and could be sold on the dark web or used for other illicit purposes. You could potentially become the victim of cyber fraud and identity theft, ultimately hampering your privacy.

It would be great if your risks began and ended within that hypothetical scenario. But your personal information is likely all over online, government offices, healthcare providers, stores and restaurants, and in many of your online accounts. You might say it’s everywhere, not literally, but it’s undoubtedly in enough places that it’s out of your control.

If a cybercriminal gets access to that information, both your privacy and security are at greater risk.

What’s the difference between privacy and security in the online world?

In the online world, privacy is the private information you store on your devices and which you have enlisted in your social or financial accounts on the internet. Security is the safety measures you have applied to those devices and your online sessions in order to protect your data.

To maintain both privacy and security, cybersecurity products can be of great help.

For instance, consider a VPN or a virtual private network. It’s a security product that acts as a tunnel for your information and your activity on the internet to travel through anonymously and safe from the prying eyes.1 This tool encrypts all the data that you exchange on your device. It’s like an online version of sitting with your back to a wall when you don’t want someone else to see what you are texting on your phone in a public place.

Here’s how a VPN helps you win two ways:

  • Privacy: It helps to block websites, internet browsers, cable companies, and internet service providers from tracking your personal information and browser history. 
  • Security: It helps secure your communicative exchange and protect you from other people accessing your sensitive data.

Tips for protecting your privacy and security

It’s wise to rely on companies and organizations that value your privacy and take steps to protect your personal information. But you can also follow some simple measures to help protect and boost your own privacy and security.

Here are some examples:

  • Limit what you share on social media and online in general.
    Destroy critical physical or digital documents before tossing them in the trash.
  • Guard your Aadhaar Card Number. Keep it in a secure place, and don’t give it out if possible. Instead, ask if you can provide another form of identification.
  • Safeguard your data and devices, which includes installing security software, a secure router, a VPN on public Wi-Fi, and identity theft protection services.
  • Understand how the information you’re giving away could be used. Be more cautious of how your data, once shared online, is no longer in your control. Read an organization’s privacy policy before signing up for an app or service. 

Remember, it’s not necessarily a case of privacy vs. security. Both are important in our connected world, especially these days when all the cybercriminals are stuck in their homes, left with more time to hijack your info. You can and should have both.

The new Norton Privacy Manager app helps you control your online privacy more securely with several features:

  • An in-app VPN encrypts the information you send and receive in the app, including emails and text messages
  • An anonymous search engine with private browsing helps protect your information by keeping your search history confidential.
  • Virtual profiles help safeguard your personal information when shopping, socializing or browsing online.
  • password manager helps keep your online passwords secure and conveniently available.
  • Ad blockers and tracker blockers help prevent companies from following your digital footprint across the web.


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Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. Our offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about Cyber Safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses. The Norton and LifeLock brands are part of Gen Digital Inc. 


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