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Data Privacy vs Cybersecurity – Incident Response

How to effectively honor opt-out requests

Access Control can be looked at as a preventive measure, Incident Response is a vital aspect of privacy and cybersecurity as it focuses on identifying, analyzing, containing, resolving, and preventing incidents that could prove detrimental to the business and the individuals involved. Incident Response can be broadly defined as an organized approach to respond to any incident faced by organizations.

The highly interconnected digital world is often prey to privacy and cybersecurity incidents that can compromise a company's sensitive information or digital assets. Some non-breach incidents can lead to reputational damage, and a simple issue can quickly escalate to become a major incident. An incident can quickly become a potential reputational problem if it isn't properly managed. Clear communication strategy is also required as part of an incident response. Technical issues like bad product designs, inadequate access controls, vulnerabilities in security, etc can escalate to incidents if ignored or not communicated. Security and privacy often overlap in incident response and management, however they often pertain to two different things. Privacy focus is typically about an individual's personal information and how it might have been allowed to be accessed and viewed. In contrast, security focus is around the protection of data and information, irrespective of whether it contains personal information or not. A main difference between privacy and security is that privacy involves how the customer or employee's data is used and controlled, while security protects this data. Security can exist without privacy, but the reverse is not true. Security and privacy are both equally important for managing personal and sensitive information. Though privacy and security focus can sometimes overlap in incident response and management, they can look very different. They have some aspects in common while being different from each other in various aspects. Many privacy incidents, such as undisclosed use or sharing, may not be considered security incidents at all. Similarities between Privacy incident vs. a Security incident

  • Both incidents revolve around data handling, making data the prime element.

  • Both incidents raise significant concerns; companies could face serious consequences like financial loss, legal liabilities, and reputational damage.

  • Many regulations address data privacy and cybersecurity concerns, highlighting their overlap.

  • Response strategies to tackle such situations usually analyze current incidents to improve security measures, helping stay ahead of threats by providing a context for future incidents.

However, understanding how privacy and security incidents are different from each other is key to establishing effective incident response strategies. Key differences: Privacy incidents focus on potential harm caused to individuals affected by the incidents. In contrast, cybersecurity incidents involve a broader spectrum of unauthorized access to data or systems at an organizational level. Some key differences between the two are:


Privacy incidents

Cybersecurity/Security incidents


These involve unauthorized access, disclosure, use, or compromise of personal information and/or sensitive personal information

These incidents involve unauthorized access to computer systems (or networks) and digital assets.

Impact and focus

Focus on the Impact on individuals from such incidents and require focus on misuse and compromise of personal data.

​​Focus on the Impact to the company, including disruption of business operations and financial loss.


Some privacy incidents may not be security incidents. Unauthorized use of data within a company without adequate disclosure and consent will be a privacy incident. But incidents may involve legitimate uses of data within the company and may not qualify as security incidents

Protection and prevention measures

Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PETs) and access controls can be implemented to prevent unauthorized use of personal information. This might include technologies such as homomorphic encryption, differential privacy, etc.

Use of firewalls, intrusion detection systems and cybersecurity best practices can help to avoid incidents.

Notifications and responses

Companies are required to notify affected persons and regulatory bodies.

Companies can follow incident response plans to contain the incident, assess damage, and work on recovery while cooperating with enforcing authorities (if needed).

Long term effects

Cause trust and reputational damage in the long run.

Security incidents can disrupt business operations and lead to financial losses.

Privacy is a legal problem and security is a technology problem. Privacy and security incidents can take different approaches to identify, contain, and resolve incidents based on the nature of the incident and the severity level. Privacy and security teams might share similar strategies, but they may operate independently of one another. Their similar systems and processes can overcomplicate the organization's approach to incident response, and the teams can end up competing with one another for attention and resources. Even with numerous shared goals (managing third-party risk, meeting data regulation requirements, responding to incidents and potential breaches, and ensuring that data is processed and stored securely and ethically), privacy and security teams remain siloed too often and do not come together most efficiently to collaborate. Shared Resource Model Given the overlap in how privacy and security incidents are managed, it might make sense for companies to adopt a shared resource model to address both incidents. Organizations can adopt a collaborative approach to pool their expertise, resources, and information to improve incident response capabilities and handle privacy and security incidents through a shared model. Such models improve organizational expertise, leading to faster responses and cost deductions. The shared resource model includes:

  • Collaboration networks – companies form alliances, share information, & put joint efforts to solve incidents.

  • Information sharing – physical and digital platforms where companies share vulnerabilities, threat intelligence, and incident data.


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