Data Privacy

Data Privacy vs. Data Security: A Guide

DataGrail May 10, 2022

When developing your company’s information and data protection policies—whether they’re preventative or in response to a recent data breach—it’s important to understand the roles of data privacy vs. data security. 

Each element plays a vital role in preventing unauthorized access to confidential personal information. While data privacy describes the extent to which your user data is accessible, data security refers to the measures you take to protect your personal data and prevent data breaches.

In this article, we’ll go into more detail about each crucial arm of data protection, describe the difference between data privacy and data security, and explore how you can use both philosophies to protect your company’s confidential information. 

What Is Data Privacy?

Before we compare data privacy vs. data security, let’s flesh out each concept. So, what is data privacy?

Data privacy is an umbrella term that describes two distinct elements:

  1. The process of assigning data access capabilities to individuals in a company structure
  2. Individual efforts to prevent unauthorized access

Let’s explore a scenario where you’d consider data privacy during your day-to-day operations:

  • You create a slide deck that you intend only to share with select team members.
  • You password-protect the file and save it in a secure (physical or cloud) location.
  • You share the password with the employees to whom you want to grant access. 
  • You request that employees with access don’t share the password with anyone else.

In this scenario, you act on both major goals of data privacy protection: 

  • Granting data access (via a password) to appropriate employees
  • Taking steps to prevent unauthorized access to the data

What Is Data Security?

Data security describes the efforts you take to protect all of your company’s confidential data—both from unauthorized employee access and third-party infiltrations.

Data security strategies typically include three major tactics:

  1. Implementing software solutions
  2. Creating and maintaining standard operating procedures (SOPs) for security
  3. Training employees and stakeholders to use the software and follow SOPs

Data security plans come in all shapes and sizes—perhaps you train your employees to only store data on a secure server, but you don’t use a data privacy platform or maybe you provide a written SOP that employees can consult for procedural questions. 

That being said, the most robust data security plans use all three tactics to ensure optimal protection against data breaches and data loss. 

How Are Data Privacy and Data Security Different?

What is the difference between data security and data privacy? These two practices differ in terms of who facilitates and has access to each method:

  • Assigning responsibility – Individuals generally play the lead role in data privacy efforts. Singular employees assign access to restricted data as they see fit, and they take measures to prevent unauthorized access by both employees and potentially malicious third parties. But, organizations as a whole are often responsible for creating, maintaining, and implementing data security plans. 
  • Determining access – One major difference between data privacy and data security is that, as a part of data privacy efforts, employees individually dictate who has access to certain data. While they can use software or other data security measures to implement access security controls, this process is difficult to completely automated. Conversely, company leaders typically have access to data security measures. 

Despite their differences, responsible businesses should use both data protection tactics to prevent breaches and data loss and ensure data privacy regulation compliance. In other words, businesses (via individual employees) can avoid data privacy issues and reduce cyber risk via data security measures. 

Why Is It Important to Understand the Difference?

You might already know the difference between data security and data privacy, but why is it important? To create a robust and thorough data protection plan, your business should understand the key differences between data privacy and data security. While creating protection protocols, businesses must identify the roles of both:

  • Individual employees’ implementation of established procedures
  • The policies, training, and software that support employees’ efforts

Understanding the data privacy vs. data security dichotomy can help your business brainstorm solutions for security vulnerabilities and determine where failing systems need to improve. 

For instance, if a third party breaches your company server, but employees have been following all published SOP procedures, you may need to search for solutions related to data security rather than data privacy. More specifically, you may need to address your software’s ability to scale with your data generation. 

How Should I Use Data Privacy and Data Security?

Wondering how to improve data privacy? You will need a detailed plan. To create a thorough data protection plan, you should implement all aspects of both data privacy and data security by doing the following:

  • Train employees to provide data access on a need-to-know basis
  • Require employees to follow access-sharing and cybersecurity protocols
  • Implement software that keeps your sensitive information safe
  • Develop SOPs that employees can use for reference when handling sensitive data
  • Maintain quality data protection training for new and existing employees

A company that enacts all of the above is significantly less likely to experience a breach and substantially more likely to create and maintain an effective, user-friendly data protection system at scale. 

Consolidate Data Protection With DataGrail

While you can compare data privacy vs. data security, both are vital to a healthy, effective system that prevents unauthorized access to confidential information. And both represent a set of philosophies and tools that can protect your business from potentially catastrophic data breaches. 

For the software component of your data security plan, look no further than DataGrail’s user-friendly, powerful protection platform. The DataGrail Integration Network can connect to over 1,000 widely-used apps—like Slack, Dropbox, and Workday—to monitor access and alert stakeholders if there’s a breach. 

Plus, DataGrail scales with your data—as you add and remove users, files, hardware, and programs, the DataGrail Integration Network ensures that every facet of your business’s data system is operational. 

If you’re ready to truly protect your data and mitigate any security risk, request a demo today. 


Journal of Big Data. Big Data Privacy: A Technological Perspective and Review. 

SNIA. What Is Data Privacy?