Privacy vs. security

What's the difference?

Privacy

The state of being secluded from the presence, sight, or knowledge of others.

Security

The condition of not being threatened, especially physically, psychologically, emotionally, or financially.

These are broad terms; and the above definitions don't adequately cover all of the associations and interpretations we've come to understand of both subjects.

Beyond our definitions of the two subjects, the difference between them is also indicated by the fact that many people, myself included, tend to write about one more than the other. Privacy is a basic human right and should be recognised as such the world over, but this isn't the case. Security, on the other hand, is too often the irresistible end governments and companies promise us to justify their questionable means – too often violations of our privacy.

I can't help but harbour an enduring distrust of a certain four-letter agency since it came to light they systematically spied on (and no doubt continue to spy on) countless innocent citizens at home and abroad, thereby violating their right to privacy. However, I have no doubt that same four-letter agency keeps us all safer in ways most of us are oblivious to. Crucially, though, at least in my mind, this will never justify the abovementioned violation of our right to privacy.

Which is more important?

Neither, objectively. Is it more important that you lock your front door at night, or that you draw your curtains when you're getting dressed? That depends on all sorts of subjective factors related to your threat model, such as what the crime rate is where you live, who you are, what you do, what person, corporation or government you've pissed off and, more generally, how you feel about someone potentially looking into your private life without your consent or knowledge.

Reassessing priorities

If one thing is clear, it's that to get by as the 'average' netizen in today's connected world without being screwed by some person, corporation or government, you need to know at least the basics of good privacy and security practices. That means worrying less about how to pull the wool over the 14 Eyes (which you'll probably never be able to do) and more about how you can avoid becoming low-hanging fruit for phishers and other malicious actors. After all, with receipt of one poorly-written email and with one careless click, your whole life could be upturned.

The value and importance of having instant access to so many privacy and security tools and other resources nowdays can't be understated. In just a few minutes, you can significantly improve your level of privacy and security online. This is something to cherish and fiercely protect.

You can make a start by visiting some of the links below to find out more about the individuals and groups dedicated to helping protect us from the often subtle harms which lay in wait in the digital world.

Privacy and security tools and resources:

Advocacy groups: