The Distinction: Data Privacy versus Protection

Data trespasses are a source of problems for both companies and their customers. When data gets exposed to unauthorized access, it can cost a lot of money to recover (which is not often possible). The situation can sully the company’s image. This stolen data can vary from innocuous information to too personal details, depending on the company affected.

Despite the rate at which one hears about such data breaches and the relative damaging effect, many individuals do not still understand the notion of data storage. Neither do they know the difference between data privacy and data protection. But distinctions between data privacy and data protection are vital to understanding how one is correlated with the other. 

One must understand the difference between these terms to avoid confusion about legal obligations and rights. Though they are very closely interconnected, data privacy and data protection are not synonyms, neither at they the same. Privacy concerns occur when personal information distinguished from one party to another is collected, stored, or used. 

Below, we discuss the distinction between data privacy and data protection and the importance of having the needed policies, tools, and technologies to protect digital assets.

A Simple Comparison

While data privacy authorizes who has legal access to information, data protection focuses on protecting users’ details from unauthorized use. Data protection is often a technical issue, whereas data privacy is a process or legal problem.

Simply put, data protection is about securing data against unauthorized access. Data privacy is about authorized access. Generally, data privacy is a legal issue, while data protection is a technical one.

The User Dictates Privacy While the Company Executes Protection

The primary difference people should know about data privacy, and data protection is who controls what. In data privacy, the user is the one who has it, defines it, and controls it. This user, who is the subscriber, willingly submits his/her data when requested by a company during a registration or a purchase. As the user, you can usually control which information is shared with whom.

Data protection, however, is the company’s responsibility. And it deals with how data is handled and managed inside the organization. When an individual willingly submits his/her data to a company, it is the responsibility of such an institution to ensure that the user’s level of privacy has been set, executed and data is protected.

Sold and Stolen Data 

Data privacy is about keeping the user’s information from being sold or shared by the authorized access. At the same time, data protection is entirely focused on keeping that information from hackers and cyber thieves. Another way of saying this is, data privacy is about what companies who have gathered your data legally can and should do with it. It also determines what control you have over that retention and use of data. 

Data protection ensures that your information is safeguarded from unlawful access by unauthorized parties. Technology is not enough to ensure personal data privacy as authorized individuals might have access to the data. At this point, it becomes about a privacy breach and not protection. Therefore, companies must have a policy regarding what they can do for each type of data intrusion.

Though one cannot relay the place of technology to the background, no technological armour can wipe out the central role of trust in ensuring data privacy. This goes too for those involved in file transfers. With the way data passes through Web nodes, any server and the forwarding IP address that handles a packet can read the message. At some fundamental level, there is no privacy and almost zero security for anything sent across the open Web.

Enjoying Data Privacy Does Not Guarantee That You Have Data Protection

In the distinction between data privacy and data protection, it is necessary to note that you cannot ensure data privacy unless personal data is protected by technology. If while you are inputting personal information, it gets stolen, then data privacy can be breached. Yet, personal data can be protected while still not being completely private.

For example, when you swipe your credit card for a service provider such as an online writer approved by writing service reviews, you are doing two things. One, you are trusting the service provider and the payment system with your data protection. It means they should ensure that unauthorized access (which includes shady cybercriminals and other third parties) to your credit information without your consent is not possible. 

But you also believe that those authorized partners will honour your data privacy by not misusing the information. It should hold even though you provided it to them.

Addressing Data Privacy

Data protection is the safeguarding of the data already obtained by a company. Most individuals, however, often ignore the fact that there has to be a privacy process before the question of protection even arises. You need to ask yourself if submitting your data is necessary before you start wondering about how protected the data will be.

Below are ways companies can ensure that data privacy is always ensured:

Breach notification

Data processors must notify customers without delay once they become aware of a data breach (sensitive and confidential data is accessed in an unauthorized manner).

Right to access

Data providers have the right to confirm whether their information is getting processed, where the processing occurs, and for what purpose. They also have the right to collect a copy of the personal data.

Right to be forgotten

Data providers have the right to ask the data controller to stop processing and erase their data.

How to Solve the Issue of Data Protection

With cybercriminals becoming bold by the day, data protection becomes essential. When personal data is in transit, the only mode of protection one can depend on is encryption. In encryption, an unauthorized third party may see the data but not access, read or collect it.

However, with end-to-end encryption, only authorized users with known IP addresses can get through the privacy shield and access the data. That is about as far as technology can provide you when it comes to data privacy and data protection. The rest is up to you. Check any data protection solution you have deployed often to spot errors early.


The difference between privacy and protection can be summarized as- “who one intends to share data with” and “how the recipient plans to protect your data from everyone else.” We must know this distinction between privacy and data protection to avoid confusion and misunderstanding about legal requirements. Businesses and companies have data protection obligations and should have a legitimate basis for collecting, using or processing personal data.

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