What Is the Difference Between Security and Privacy Online and Why Does It Matter?

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As technologies evolve, our digital footprints grow in numbers. As a result, we all become increasingly vulnerable to identity fraud, data breaches, and other internet threats.

Online privacy has become a significant subcategory of data privacy these days. The same goes for online security. So much so, in fact, that the terms are used interchangeably.

Given the reality of the situation, it’s no wonder so many people are talking about online security and online privacy these days. What’s fascinating is that only a few seem to understand the critical difference between the two. Our goal is to change that.

The Difference Between Online Security and Online Privacy

Although closely linked, online security and online privacy still have some key differences.

The easiest way to understand the difference between the two is to remove the word “online.” Do you understand the difference between security and privacy? Of course you do.

Privacy is all about keeping things out of public. It is about keeping what’s personal personal and having certain aspects of your life just to yourself.

Security is more about being protected from all types of threats and feeling safe. Basically, security is the state of freedom from dangers that may potentially happen to us.

There is a great analogy even a young child will understand. Imagine you live in a house. It’s late evening, the lights are turned on, the whole family is home. If you don’t want strangers to be able to see what’s happening inside, you use curtains on your windows (that’s how you protect privacy). If you don’t want thieves to break in, you close the front gate and lock your doors (that’s how your protect security).

Taking it back to the internet context, online privacy is mostly about your natural right to own the data you generate and to restrict its outward flow if you feel like keeping it personal. Online security, in its turn, is mostly about guarding data and web-connected gadgets from cybercrime threats like malware, phishing, and identity fraud.

Why Do Online Security and Online Privacy Matter?

Let’s talk online privacy first. It is a part of being human to do or have things just for ourselves. Because humans evolved to be particularly sensitive to social pressure, we also developed a sense that some things should be private to avoid social rejection or vulnerability. Naturally, we all have things we don’t want to be seen. When those things happen online or are stored online, the need for online privacy comes into play.

Basically, we need online privacy to protect our reputation; to keep our sensitive data like health records or financial credentials safe, as well as to prevent big corporations from using what they know about us against us—mostly for marketing manipulation purposes.

As for online security, this is where things get increasingly serious. Online security dangers come in many shapes and forms, from malware and phishing to hacking and data breaches. In plain English, these dangers refer to the risks of installing a harmful virus on your device, being stolen from, or losing control over your email or social media accounts, among other things.

Terrifyingly, a failure to protect your security online may result in getting yourself into big trouble offline. This is the case with online predators targeting kids or sex offenders spotting your location to meet you in real life, which can easily happen with lax social media security.

How to Protect Your Security and Privacy Online

There are plenty of things you can do to protect your online security and online privacyIn most cases, however, following these basic steps will be more than enough:

  • Use strong passwords and make sure to change them regularly (at least on a 90-day basis).
  • Don’t open emails or download attachments from people you don’t know.
  • Remember to log out of your personal accounts if you happen to use someone else’s computer.
  • Make sure to use a high-quality antivirus software.
  • Install an ad blocker to stay protected from browser tracking and malvertising.
  • Think twice before sharing personal information such as photos, credentials, or current locations online.
  • When shopping online, use trustworthy websites only (check if the URL of a websites starts with an “https” and has a padlock icon).
  • Clear cookies to prevent companies from tracking your online activities and using this information for marketing purposes.
  • If you’re a parent, educate your kids on the topic of online security and privacy.

Being online makes up a significant part of modern life, and—just like the real world—it contains plenty of threats and dangers to watch out for. Remember that your privacy and security online always translates into your privacy and security offline. These two words are more connected then you may think.

If you’d like to dig deeper into the topic, take a look at these articles:

How to Secure Your Email (And Why It Matters More Than You Think)

Mobile Security–How Secure Are Your Mobile Devices, Actually?

Why Online Privacy Matters For Everyone–Yes, Even You