Security and privacy are often discussed together. Though they are related, they
are really quite separate concepts.
Businesses have privacy obligations because of commitments they have made to
customers. These commitments may be made through contracts, they may be required by
statutes, and, because of the privacy torts, they are
a part of just holding personal information.
Governments, too, have privacy obligations with regard to the information they
collect about citizens. These obligations are imposed by a variety of statutes (and they
are different from the protections of the Fourth
Amendment, which appropriately guard privacy by limiting governments' ability to
collect information in the first place.)
Security, on the other hand, is any number of practices and processes that respond
to threats against a company's or government's ability to function. Only one such
function is carrying out privacy obligations.
Security, in short, is a means to an end. The relevance of security to privacy is that
a business or government lacking proper security may violate its privacy commitments.
Along with threatening privacy, a business that lacks proper security may violate
contracts and lose trade secrets, cash, or equipment, in addition to subjecting itself
to lawsuits. A government that lacks proper security may also violate privacy and
fail to serve its citizens.
Security threats, and responses to them are constantly shifting. Given the
huge variety of businesses, and the different ways they use information, the best
approach to security is not for legislators and regulators to try guessing — in the
name of privacy — what companies must do to protect their functions. Rather,
security should be left as a clear responsibility of business, a responsibility on
which success or failure rides.
Governments do not succeed or fail based on whether their security measures for the
privacy of citizen information are sufficient. For this reason, information collection
by governments should be minimized and the security measures adopted by governments
should be constantly monitored by the press and the public.