01 September 2014

Private or Secure

A great beer conversation kept me up thinking, what is the difference between security and privacy on a philosophical, more than technical, level.

First, some definitions

Let’s use the term Entity as some sort information or an object. And then Privacy is the ability to control access to that entity. For example you can have a private meeting by only inviting certain people. Integrity is the ability to determine the unity of an entity or to prevent its modification. Ex. Hash of a downloaded file. PGP signature of a message. RAID 1+ storage. And the safety seal on a drink. Then let’s define “security” as the degree which you can enforce the “privacy” and/or “integrity” of an entity.

Some examples

To make this more concrete I will try to make some examples. On the honor system, you won’t read something if I tell you not to. That means my privacy is secured based on your reputation and honor. A king can seal a note with wax and his ring. It’s integrity is secured by how difficult it is to make a replication of the exact seal. The recipient can be sure that, if the seal is unbroken, the contents have not been modified. But perhaps it is possible to hold the note up to the light and read it. So the privacy of the note is not very secure. Then to talk abotu art and museums. The physical integrity of the Mona Lisa is secured but a thick sheet of glass. But it is not private.

More to come later, maybe.