The Difference Between Data Privacy, Data Protection, and Compliance

Data privacy, data protection, and compliance are similar, but they are not the same. If you’re like most IT professionals, you may have used these terms interchangeably, and with good reason. All data privacy laws deal with protection, many data protection laws have privacy at their heart, and both outline compliance requirements. But what exactly is data privacy, and how is it related to data protection? Read on to learn more. 

What is Data Privacy? 

Data privacy, also called information privacy, is all about the processes of collecting, handling, and sharing individuals’ personal and confidential data. In some regions data privacy is a considered a right and existing and emerging data protection laws, including the GDPRCCPA, and the Digital Charter Implementation Act, have been established to regulate how companies collect, use, store, and share individuals’ private and sensitive information. 

In most instances, data privacy is not a type of technological solution—rather, it’s a legal concept that dictates which data is considered sensitive, what can be collected, and the types of safeguards that should be in place to protect it. 

Related Reading: What is Data Security? 

Why is Data Privacy Important? 

Data privacy is an important aspect of data protection because it talks specifically about safeguarding sensitive personal information collected by organizations. In some cases, data privacy acts also give individuals greater control over what data they allow companies to capture, store, and share. 

In a business setting, data privacy helps narrow the focus of data protection. One of today’s greatest assets is data, and consumers provide massive amounts of personal information to businesses. However, sharing sensitive information poses risks to both consumers and the companies storing that information. Data privacy requirements prompt businesses to treat personal data differently, and ideally to take greater precautions and proactive steps to strengthen their data management practices for any information that could be harmful to individuals if breached. 

What is Data Protection? 

Data protection encompasses the steps taken to ensure data privacy and data security (the software solutions in place to prevent internal and external data breaches). It’s the overarching umbrella that covers what data is being collected and how it’s being secured. 

Related Reading: How Globalscape Fits into Your Data Security Suite 

How is Privacy Related to Data Protection? 

Data privacy is one of the subsets of data protection. Safeguarding sensitive personal data is a focus of data protection, but data security is the mechanism that works to ensure data privacy. 

Because data privacy is not a type of technology, data protection solutions take on the burden of keeping sensitive data secure. While data privacy establishes what information should be protected, data protection outlines the safeguards that should be in place, and compliance is the “watchdog” element of the three. 

Related Reading: The True Cost of Compliance with Data Protection Regulations 

Note: Regional Variations in Data Protection vs. Data Privacy 

In Europe, the two terms are especially conflated. For example, global Data Privacy Day is called Data Protection Day instead. Thanks to the GDPR—General Data Protection Regulation—data privacy and data protection go hand-in-hand, as the GDPR was established to unite and standardize various data privacy laws throughout the European Union

In the U.S., data privacy and protection are both largely governed by compliance requirements within specific industries, for example healthcare’s HIPAA, or, for any organizations processing credit cards, PCI DSS

Related Reading: The Role MFT Plays in GDPR Compliance 

What is Compliance? 

Compliance is simply following a rule, whether that’s a corporate policy put in place at your office or a multi-national law, like the GDPR. Data security compliance more specifically refers to the requirements an organization must follow to properly meet data security requirements. 

What Does Compliance Mean? 

Compliance means working to attain pre-set conditions. Many compliance requirements that address data privacy, security, and protection outline the minimum conditions that must be met to be considered secure. While they can be robust, they also function as a blueprint that can be followed to achieve a strong cybersecurity stance. 

How is Compliance Related to Privacy and Data Protection? 

Data protection and privacy laws have compliance requirements in place. These vary based on the law or regulation. Failing to meet data security compliance requirements can, and often does, result in costly data breaches, non-compliance fines, or both. Following regulations and enforcing compliance can help your organization stay on track to both keep data secure and detect any violations before they become more serious. 

Related Reading: Take Our General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Quiz – Test Your Knowledge! 

How to Protect Your Data and Achieve Compliance 

Data, especially personal data, is an attractive target for hackers. Achieve end-to-end data protection—and meet compliance requirements—when you follow the data security lifecycle to protect data at all stages within your organization. 

  • Gain visibility into your data: Learn what data you have on hand, where it’s stored, who can access it, and how—or if—it will be transferred is the foundation of your data protection. 

  • Identify what data needs protection: Not all data is created equal, and some needs more extensive protections. Data classification, which helps identify data and categorize it to ensure only pre-approved data leaves the security of your system, can help. 

  • Keep sensitive data in and threats out: Adaptive Data Loss Prevention (A-DLP) solutions go above and beyond traditional DLP solutions by detecting and preventing unauthorized sharing, redacting sensitive data, and also scanning incoming files for malware. Email security can additionally boost your organization’s security by detecting and defending against email threats. 

  • Store data securely: Ensure your network is secure and you’re aware of compromised devices. Further, ensure that users only have access to the data they need, both internally and externally. 

  • Share files securely: Use appropriate encryption protocols for sending and receiving files, and go above and beyond with managed file transfer, which centralizes, secures, and provides insight into all your data movement. 

Overall, knowing what data you have on hand, how sensitive it is, what you plan to do with it, and how you will safely store or dispose of it, are the foundation of a solid data protection stance. 

Your Data Security is Only as Strong as Your Processes 

Your data is only as secure as the processes you have in place. When you layer robust security solutions, you’re taking steps to ensure that your data is protected from start to finish. With Fortra's suite of data security solutions, you can fill any existing gaps in your organization’s data protection needs, improve upon your existing processes, and ultimately strengthen your data security from end to end.