Data Protection vs. Data Privacy

The terms data protection and data privacy are often used synonymously. It led me to wonder if they meant the same or if there was any significant difference between them. Well, there is.

Data Privacy and Data protection each carry different meanings and are applicable for use in different scenarios. Let us go through some of those core differences between both terms:

Firstly, if we look closely, the words “protection” and “privacy” signify different things. Protection implies the safeguarding of something, in this case, say, a customer’s data, from the hands of malicious offenders. So, data protection aims to protect the data from unauthorized access. On the other hand, privacy ensures that only the authorized can view the data. So, data privacy is about how the data is processed, handled, stored, and used.

Secondly, data protection can be applied for just about any data, whether it be personal information or not. But the question of data privacy arises only when there’s sensitive or confidential information that must be kept away from prying eyes. Hence, data protection does not ensure privacy; neither does data privacy provide protection. But, data protection precedes data privacy – you cannot ensure data remains private without protecting it. However, you should note that protecting data does not guarantee its privacy. If the methods of data protection aren’t reliable, it becomes easy for hackers to get their hands on your information. Thus, robust processes of data protection, like sensitive data discovery, data anonymization, data minimization, and data monitoring, are necessary to enable foolproof privacy for sensitive data.

Thirdly, data protection is more technical in function, whereas data privacy is more legal. As I said, data protection includes methods and processes (technologies) put in place that ensure the privacy of data. On the other hand, the question of privacy arises because fundamentally, that information is something you don’t want everyone to see, but on a larger scale, it is governed by privacy compliance laws like the GDPR, CCPA, PDPA, and the like. These laws recommend data protection measures that organizations can use to keep their consumers’ data private. Again, you should note that compliance doesn’t guarantee data security. You can read more about this in the following blog: Does Compliance mean Security?

With these three points, we’ve covered the significant differences between data protection and data privacy. You now know the fundamental meanings of both terms. But to make matters a little tricky, privacy compliance laws use different terminology to address the management of personal information. In the CCPA, it is grouped under ‘privacy policy’ and in the GDPR, under ‘protection policy.’ Also, the GDPR’s scope of personal information is wider than it’s successor’s, the CCPA. However, it is essential that you do not get confused by all this terminology, but rather, understand the essence of the law. At the end of the day, you do not need a law to tell you to protect your data and to ensure the data subjects’ privacy by doing so, you can choose to be proactive and keep the necessary measures in place without being mandated to do so.