• Privacy

Data Security vs Data Privacy: Is There a Difference?


Jessica Day Senior Director, Marketing Strategy, Dialpad

Could you sum up the difference between data security and data privacy in a single sentence?

It’s not impossible, but if it were, it would be quite a long sentence. So instead, we’ve written this article, which will explain the difference in some detail.

We’ll look at what’s involved in data security and data privacy, note a couple of key distinctions between them, and give you a few tips for best practice for the implementation of data policies.

What is data security?

Data security – also known as data protection – concerns the prevention of unauthorized access to data. This includes malicious access by third parties such as cybercriminals and hackers, internal employees or contractor abuse, of course. But it’s also about reducing the risk of human error leading to data breaches.

With so many of today’s businesses pursuing a digital enterprise transformation, there’s never been a more important time to get it right. The typical processes used when implementing data security policies include:

  • Multi-factor authentication
  • Access control
  • Network security
  • Data encryption
  • Activity monitoring
  • Data masking
  • Data erasure
  • Breach response protocols

With robust data security and protection strategies in place, your business can ensure that it avoids data corruption, loss or theft. It can help prevent some of the cloud security mistakes we regularly see that can severely damage an organization’s reputation.

What is data privacy?

Data privacy, on the other hand, is about how the information collected by an organization is used. To be more specific, it relates to the collection, processing, storage and handling of data.

Data privacy management is crucial because businesses and other organizations have a legal responsibility to handle information about customers, employees, and other stakeholders in a secure and sensitive way.

The precise details of data privacy law vary from country to country, but it’s standard for there to be some kind of rule against unauthorized access to data or disclosure of personal information.

Neglecting to meet your responsibilities under the law could lead to your business suffering financial penalties or lawsuits. At the very least, there’s a real danger of your organization taking a severe hit to its reputation. And if that happens, it can be very difficult to rebuild customer trust. So it’s vital to ensure that you take all necessary steps to implement rigorous data privacy protocols.

Differences between data security and data privacy

Although the two are related, they are not the same. There are a couple of important distinctions to be drawn between data security and data privacy.

Different aims in terms of safety

Data security places an emphasis on developing processes and protocols to prevent unauthorized access to data by hackers and other cybercriminals. Meanwhile, data privacy is about controlling who is permitted access to data, what are the permitted use cases, and how to make sure personal information is not misused by defining policies and creating appropriate controls.

Data security, in other words, is a prerequisite for data privacy. But it doesn’t necessarily work the other way around. Theoretically, you could have data security without data privacy. For example, an online retailer could have very robust data security protecting transactions on the payment side of their online shop. But without a working ecommerce privacy policy in place, there’s nothing to stop a dishonest employee from selling on customer data.

Who is legally responsible can be different

We’ve mentioned that the laws in this area do vary considerably from place to place. In many cases, though, the question of who is responsible for data security and data privacy may not be as simple as it first appears.

In most cases, the legal responsibility for data security lies unambiguously with the company or organization storing the data. However, quite often the user is expected to take a degree of responsibility for data privacy themselves.

Users have a large amount of control over the decision of how and where to share their data, and this is generally reflected in legislation. Of course, organizations the user has shared their information with will still be expected to have strict processes in place to protect the privacy of data shared with them.

Best practice for data security and data privacy

There are a number of things you can do to make sure your organization is meeting its responsibilities in storing and handling data.

Keep up to date with the law

This is the most important and most fundamental element of any data security policy or data privacy program. Being aware of which laws apply to your circumstances and following them to the letter is vital.

One important aspect of this issue to bear in mind is that laws in other jurisdictions can apply to you if you do business in that jurisdiction. For example, any US organization dealing with customers resident in the European Union will need to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules, which came into force in May 2018.

The law surrounding data security and privacy can be very complex, which leads onto the next point.

Hire professional experts

It’s best to have dedicated legal and IT experts to consult on and implement your policies. Ideally, this should happen at the beginning of the process, while you develop your solutions. Many larger organizations already have the skilled staff available for this task, of course, but smaller ones may need to outsource it.

This may seem expensive, but it could cost you a lot more in the long run if you get it wrong.

Don’t collect unnecessary data

It may be tempting to ask users to provide all sorts of data just in case. But generally speaking, this is not good practice. The more data you collect, the more can go wrong with handling it. Collect only the minimum data you need for your purposes.

One added advantage of this is that applying this principle at scale could save you money on bandwidth and storage costs. It’s also more pleasing for users, as it cuts down on extra fuss.

Automate your processes

Whether it’s about traditional PBX phone systems or the most cutting-edge machine learning tools, automating business processes is the perennial efficiency builder. And it applies just as much in this case.

The more of your data security and privacy tasks you can automate, the lower the risk of human error. It’s not always easy for employees to remember all of the compliance rules they have to stick to, so automating as much of the process as possible takes a lot of the burden off them. As a result, you’ll have fewer data breaches and less stressed staff.

Implement rigorous security procedures

There’s a reason why there are so many different types of reports in software testing. Each has a role to play in creating and maintaining standards in the final product. Using an intelligent mixture of software and network access protocols in your organization is key to making your data security setup a success.

Consider safety tools like multi-factor authentication, access control and data encryption, yes – but don’t overlook more basic necessities. For example, do you have robust procedures in place for updating your antivirus software? Do your staff always use a secure private network, without fail?

Even something as simple as social media can catch out the unwary. It’s best to limit the amount of information you share on social sites, since they can be an entry point for malicious actors.

Limit employee access to data

In today’s fast-moving business environment, where we’re using any number of tools like remote working software or an enterprise VoIP system to communicate, it can be easy to get a little careless with this. Too often, information flies from one part of an organization to another without much thought about how it gets there. Or even whether it needs to get there at all.

The fact is, it’s important to give careful consideration to exactly who needs access to data and who doesn’t. Partly, this is a question of our old friend human error again. The more individuals have access to sensitive information, the more likely it is it could be leaked accidentally.

Make consistent decisions about who needs access to data, and monitor that access. Training employees on issues like consent and preference management can also be useful in getting everyone on board with the process.

Get your employees on board

In fact, training is a good idea all round. Organize regular training courses on data security and data privacy so that everyone is aware of the importance of good practice.

It’s best if all employees have a good understanding of your organization’s policies, so that they remain front and center in your minds during everyday working life. Emphasize the importance of reporting any data breaches early to prevent more serious repercussions later.

Final thoughts

We spend a substantial proportion of our work time dealing with data: recording customer contact details, estimating the cost for an AWS instance type, and generating software test results. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that safeguarding information is one of the most crucial duties of any modern organization as we focus on day-to-day tasks.

Nevertheless, data is one of the most valuable assets we have. Safeguarding it is not only a legal responsibility, but also key to any business’s reputation. So why not take some time today to review your data policies and make sure they’re the best they can possibly be?

Jessica Day is the Senior Director for Marketing Strategy at Dialpad, a modern business communications platform that takes every kind of conversation to the next level—turning conversations into opportunities. Jessica is an expert in collaborating with multifunctional teams to execute and optimize marketing efforts, for both company and client campaigns. Jessica has also written for other domains such as Data Privacy Manager and Guru.

Jessica Day is the Senior Director for Marketing Strategy at Dialpad, a modern business communications platform that takes every kind of conversation to the next level—turning conversations into opportunities. Jessica is an expert in collaborating…