Difference Between Confidentiality and Privacy

Confidentiality vs Privacy

Confidentiality and privacy are two words that have been discussed often and confused by people leading to laws pertaining to confidentiality being made. This is because of similarity in meanings of the two words. Mostly, the two words are used in professions such as medical and legal though there are more spheres of life where the two words are being used today. Let us take a closer look to understand and appreciate the differences between confidentiality and privacy.

If you are in a hotel with your wife and worried as people are roaming around, and may have access to the activities in your room, you may desire more privacy, which means you want to be left alone so that nobody sees or hears you while you are in the room. Similarly, when you go to a doctor for an ailment that makes you feel embarrassed to tell the doctor about it in open; you want to be left alone with the doctor in his cabin so that no one else hears what you say. This also connotes more privacy for you. These are just two instances, and there can be literally thousands of such incidents that demonstrate privacy or the need of it.

Confidentiality refers to the act of keeping documents or objects safely tucked from the hands and eyes of those who are not meant to see or hear them. There can be dozens of instances of confidentiality being required such as sensitive documents of government, documents containing the client’s information in possession of a doctor or a lawyer, and so on. Many treaties and agreements between companies and governments are sensitive and require confidentiality.

Thus, it becomes clear that privacy is the right of individuals from information about them being disclosed. Privacy is not restricted to just information, as even an individual, when he is involved in private acts of bathing etc, requires privacy from others, as he does not want others to see him in his private moments. In medical and legal professions, clients decide who, when and where to share their private information, and how much. On the other hand, confidentiality is how the private information that has been disclosed is kept under wraps or guarded so that others do not have access to it.

Patients and clients disclose private information to their doctors or lawyers in a relationship of trust, and they want their privacy to be protected; in the sense, that the confidential information is not leaked to others. With technology pervading every aspect of our lives, it has become a serious concern to maintain privacy and confidentiality of information about people. Taking a simple example, we can understand the difference between privacy and confidentiality. A client accused of a crime tells his lawyer facts about himself that are private and expects the lawyer to maintain confidentiality of this information, while fighting his case.