Online Security & Privacy — are they the same?

One of the biggest digital misconceptions, which I still fall victim to, is confusing online security and privacy. These are two very different concepts, and although they typically can be associated with each other, it is entirely possible to be secure but not private, and vice versa.

So, let’s break these two concepts down now to help you understand when I mention advice that can help improve your privacy but not your security.

Kevin Mitnick is one of the world’s greatest hackers wrote The Art of Invisibility: The World’s Most Famous Hacker Teaches You How to Be Safe in the Age of Big Brother and Big Data. This book is phenomenal and it breaks down all the techniques you can use to protect yourself in our world of Big Brother and Big Data.

What do they each mean?

Security can be defined as how you protect yourself and your data. Do you have a password on your phone? Do you encrypt your hard drives? These are all good security measures to keep your data safe and out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have it!

Privacy is defined as any information that can be tied to your personal identity. Just because something is secure doesn’t mean someone can collect your information. Privacy International defines it as:

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.

The biggest challenge with privacy is that you’re not always aware of when your privacy may be compromised.

Real-world examples

To put this idea of security and privacy into context let’s imagine we’ve arrived at an airport. Before even stepping inside, you have most likely been recorded on a security camera, then once checked in, you are made to go through a metal detector. This process is to allow the guards to see what you are carrying (and more!), and these guards have the right to search you at any time. Now, in this example, the airport here has your security in mind but not your privacy.

For a digital example, anti-viruses are hotly debated with people saying the built-in software is enough, others claiming you a paid service or even none at all! Security-wise — it’s amazing. Anti-virus software protects you from malicious files and programs, you can scan for threats on your computers, etc. Paid anti-virus has even more security features like web plug-ins, password managers, ad-blocking software.

Great, our security has greatly improved! However, you are allowing a third-party company to scan the contents of every file on your computer, every program you open, and a lot of this data is sent to anti-virus companies to “improve their service and protection”. AVG came under fire with its intrusive privacy policy.


As you’ve seen, security and privacy are interdependent, such that, security can be achieved without privacy but privacy cannot be achieved without security.

Security protects your confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information. Whereas, privacy is regarding your privacy rights concerning your personal information. Privacy prevails when it comes to processing personal data, while security means protecting information assets from unauthorized access¹.

You may be wondering how you could improve your online security and privacy. Look out for my next article that will cover the best tips for becoming more secure online.






Hi, I’m Daniel. I am the founder of PocketPound — a website designed to help you organise your finances, as well as, stay safe online.

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Daniel Nelson

Daniel Nelson

Hi, I’m Daniel. I am the founder of PocketPound — a website designed to help you organise your finances, as well as, stay safe online.

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