Data Privacy vs. Data Security: What is the Main Difference?

Data is big business these days. You don’t need to look further than Google’s advertising program to see how lawfully gained user data supports the company’s primary source of revenue.

It also shouldn’t come as a surprise that user data has value elsewhere, too. Malicious actors can leverage personal data to carry out social engineering attempts, engage in identity theft, or simply sell it to the highest bidder on the darknet. 

The importance of data privacy and data security cannot be understated. These two types of data management are closely related but uniquely different. Organizations must have clear policies about both types to create a comprehensive information security plan. 

Do you think advancements in cybersecurity are keeping malicious actors at bay? On the contrary, 2021 saw 23% more data breaches than the previous all-time high. Cybercriminals constantly adapt, and your data privacy and security programs must keep up. 

Data Privacy vs. Data Security

Data Privacy and Data Security Are Intertwined, Yet Different

Data privacy vs. data security, what’s the difference? Let’s take a closer look. 

Data privacy is about how your business collects, uses, and shares sensitive data. Companies must have straightforward policies that dictate how each of these actions follows relevant regulations. The purpose of data privacy is more than just abiding by applicable laws; it’s essential to protecting your business’ reputation.

Data security is how your company protects both user and company data from being accessed by unauthorized users. Unlike data privacy policies, which are typically informed by regulations, data security is often unique to each industry and company. 

You can see how these terms are closely related, but they’re relevant to entirely different sets of policies and procedures. Combined, they aim to protect your company and your users’ data from falling into the wrong hands. Most data breaches are a breakdown in both data privacy and security.

Common Types of Data Privacy

Data privacy is highly focused on documented processes that inform how the company collects and uses customer data. These processes help companies ensure consistency in processing data and help prove data privacy compliance.

Some of the common types of data privacy regulations that need robust policies are:

  • Data collection: This type involves legal guidance for collecting customer data, which often involves obtaining user consent. 
  • Data breaches: Most regulations inform what companies must do if there is a data breach. 
  • Data privacy training: Guidelines that illustrate the proper training of employees regarding collecting and using personal data.

Regulations about data privacy often spill over into data security. Some examples are:

  • Data access: Strict guidelines dictate employee access to sensitive data and how much information customers can access. 
  • Data storage: Regulations that dictate the security infrastructure surrounding collected data. 

We can see how the two concepts are closely related to the point where topics like storage and access levels can fall under both categories. 

Data Privacy Regulations to Understand

Corporate data privacy policies are primarily informed by applicable regulations. Regulations cover the type of data, how it was collected, and reporting breaches. For example, here are some of the key global and national data privacy regulations:

  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA): Any business involved in the healthcare industry must abide by HIPAA regulations that aim to ensure patients’ privacy. Clear policies must be created that guarantee the confidentiality of patient data and anticipate potential attack vectors. 
  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): These regulations apply to companies within the EU or who interact with EU residents. GDPR gives customers the right to know what data is being collected and dictates requirements for how businesses respond to breaches. 
  • Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI-DSS): Any business that stores, accepts, or transmits cardholder data is subjected to these regulations. Organizations must have clear policies in place that protect this sensitive information. PCI-DSS is one of the primary data security laws that impact most businesses.

These regulations focus on data privacy encompassing elements of data security. 

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What About Data Security?

So, data privacy policies are primarily determined by regulations. We see how these regulations often involve data security. 

However, data security is its own category composed mainly of two elements: humans and technology. 

The Human Element

The best intrusion detection system won’t do much if an employee hands over access to the network or databases. Data security is concerned with the following human elements to protect sensitive information:

  • Passwords: Weak passwords are equal to telling a cybercriminal your password, as their lack of complexity leaves them open to being brute-forced. Companies must have strict password guidelines, including password strength and regular password changes.
  • Email: Phishing and social engineering are common email-based attack vectors. Yet, employees rely on email to communicate internally and externally. Therefore, they must be trained in identifying malicious emails and know how to report them to IT safely.
  • Social networks: Accessing social media at work is common, but clicking a link in a DM is all it takes to jeopardize the company’s integrity. Organizations need strict guidelines about acceptable social media usage at work, if any. 

The Technology Element

Data security risk management primarily consists of having the right technology in place. Businesses of all sizes need the right systems in place to protect user data:

  • Mobile device management: BYOD programs and company-provided mobile devices have created a formidable challenge for security specialists. Access levels must be carefully created to keep these devices contained from the broader intranet. In addition, mobile devices should only access what they need and nothing more. 
  • Encryption: All company and user data must be encrypted during storage and transmission. Malicious actors will need the keys or keyfiles to make sense of intercepted data. Therefore, proper encryption policies also include handling keys and key files properly. 
  • Vulnerability scans: Advancements in vulnerability scans have made them a must-have element in a data security policy. This software will ensure any open firewall ports are actively monitored. However, it’s worth noting that malicious actors have access to software designed to outsmart vulnerability scanning solutions, so it should be updated regularly. 

Your Organization Needs Both Data Privacy and Data Security

We can see now that data privacy is focused on abiding by applicable regulations, while data security is focused on a company’s unique needs to protect sensitive data. You need both pieces to protect user data from malicious actors adequately. 
Centraleyes gives businesses complete visibility over their entire risk landscape with a powerful solution that automates risk management and remediation. Discover how our platform can improve every aspect of your compliance programs. Book a meeting today to learn more.

Start Getting Value With
Centraleyes for Free

See for yourself how the Centraleyes platform exceeds anything an old GRC
system does and eliminates the need for manual processes and spreadsheets
to give you immediate value and run a full risk assessment in less than 30 days