Data protection or data security: what’s the difference?


Which is more important – data protection or data security? Those who pay attention to both have a clear advantage. Because both have an impact on your digital wellbeing. But what’s the difference?

Data protection and data security are related to each other. Data protection refers to your rights in relation to control of your personal data and its use.

Data security, on the other hand, describes the measures that are taken to protect this data. Your data – various pieces of information about yourself – can be in many different places. This can create problems for both your privacy and your security.

For some of us, the two concepts are one and the same. That’s because they occasionally overlap in our connected world. They are by no means identical and if you are aware of the differences, this can help to protect you in our increasingly interconnected world.

What is the difference between data protection and data security?

Here is an example: Imagine that you pass on personal data to your bank in order to open a checking account. What happens after that? Below are three sample scenarios that describe what can happen to your personal data (regardless of what happens to the money in your checking account).

  1. Both data protection and data security remain intact . The bank uses your data to open the account and to provide you with products and services. It continuously guarantees the protection of your data.
  2. Data protection is violated, but the security of the data is preserved. A company sells some of your data to a marketing company. (You may have consented to the disclosure in the website’s privacy notice.) As a result, your personal information may fall into the hands of more people than you might intended.
  3. Both data protection and data security are violated. The bank falls victim to a data breach. Cyber ​​criminals gain access to one of their databases and the security of your data is compromised. These are now at the mercy of the intruders and could be sold on the Darknet, for example. This also means that data protection is lost and you are exposed to the risk of cyber fraud or identity theft.

It wouldn’t be that complicated if your risks were limited to the hypothetical bank in this example. But your personal data is distributed all over the networked world – in government offices, in doctor’s offices and hospitals, in shops and restaurants and in a variety of online accounts. In fact, they’re everywhere – not literally, but in fact they’re spread out over so many places that they’re beyond your control.

If they are accessed by a cybercriminal, your control over them could be lost and never be seen again. Then your data protection and your data security will be equally affected.

What is the difference between data protection and data security in relation to computers?

Cybersecurity products can contribute to your data protection and data security – sometimes both at the same time.

For example, a VPN – a virtual private network – is recommended for this purpose . This security product acts as a kind of tunnel between your data and your Internet activities, which encrypts the incoming and outgoing data on your device. At a coffee shop or airport, you might want to sit with your back to the wall to prevent unauthorized persons from viewing the documents on your computer or mobile device. You can think of a VPN as the online equivalent of this.

You benefit from a VPN in two ways:

  • Privacy: It helps prevent websites, web browsers, media companies and Internet service providers from seeing your information and browsing history.
  • Data security: It helps to protect you from strangers accessing your personal information and other sensitive data that you access online.

Tips for data protection and data security

It pays to make sure that the companies and organizations you do business with care about your privacy and that they take steps to protect your personal information. But you can also contribute to the protection and security of your data yourself.

Here are some examples:

  • Limit the information you share on social networks and the Internet in general.
  • Shred important documents before throwing them in the trash.
  • Protect your data and devices. This may mean getting the help of an antivirus and wireless LAN protection program for computers.
  • Find out what usage rights you grant for the information published. Read an organization’s privacy policy before registering for an application or service. Be aware that providers of free applications or services may make their money selling your data.

How long will this topic remain relevant?

The subject of data protection and data security will always remain topical. Why? Because your information is stored in more and more places over time.

The interconnectedness of our world is unstoppable and your information is valuable. This increases the temptation to profit from it, both legally and illegally.

The best advice on the subject of data protection and data security is still: Don’t go without one or the other.