Ask Difference

Privacy vs. Confidentiality — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Published on September 28, 2023
Privacy refers to the right of individuals to keep their personal matters and information secluded from others. Confidentiality refers to the obligation to protect someone's information from being disclosed.
Privacy vs. Confidentiality — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Privacy and Confidentiality


Key Differences

Privacy is an individual's right to keep their personal information and activities away from public scrutiny. It allows a person to have a space or information that is exclusively their own. Confidentiality, on the other hand, deals with the responsibility to safeguard someone else's information from unauthorized access or disclosure.
In the realm of healthcare, for example, privacy would mean that a patient has the right to keep their medical records and health history private. Confidentiality in the same context refers to the obligation healthcare providers have to protect that information from being disclosed without the patient's consent.
From a grammatical standpoint, both "Privacy" and "Confidentiality" are nouns. The related adjectives would be "private" and "confidential," respectively. While privacy focuses more on the concept of 'personal space,' confidentiality centers around the concept of 'trust and obligation.'
Privacy is often a legal right protected by constitutions and laws, such as the right to privacy in the U.S. Constitution. Confidentiality is often a legal obligation, stipulated in contracts, professional ethics codes, or laws that prohibit unauthorized disclosure of confidential information.
Both privacy and confidentiality are crucial in various settings, such as legal, medical, and corporate environments. While privacy is about the individual's choice to disclose or not, confidentiality is about the duty one has to keep someone else's disclosed information secret.

Comparison Chart


Individual Right
External Obligation

Related to

Personal Matters
Someone Else's Information

Grammatical Use


Related Adjective


Legal Context

Often a Legal Right
Often a Legal Obligation

Compare with Definitions


The right to keep one's personal matters confidential.
Everyone should respect your privacy online.


The obligation to keep someone else's information secure.
Medical professionals must uphold confidentiality.


The condition of being secluded from others.
I need some privacy to concentrate on my work.


The act of limiting information to authorized persons.
Confidentiality is required for this project.


Freedom from unauthorized surveillance.
Privacy laws prevent unwarranted spying.


The quality of being private and not publicly disclosed.
The confidentiality of the meeting was crucial.


The state of being free from public attention.
I moved to the countryside for more privacy.


The duty to protect sensitive information.
Lawyers owe their clients strict confidentiality.


Privacy is the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves or information about themselves, and thereby express themselves selectively. When something is private to a person, it usually means that something is inherently special or sensitive to them.


A principle of ethical or contractual secrecy.
She broke confidentiality by leaking the document.


A state in which one is not observed or disturbed by other people
She returned to the privacy of her own home


Confidentiality involves a set of rules or a promise usually executed through confidentiality agreements that limits access or places restrictions on certain types of information.


The quality or condition of being secluded from the presence or view of others
I need some privacy to change into my bathing suit.


Done or communicated in confidence; secret.


The state of being free from public attention or unsanctioned intrusion
A person's right to privacy.


Entrusted with the confidence of another
A confidential secretary.


(uncountable) The state of being secluded from the presence, sight, or knowledge of others.
I need my privacy, so please stay out of my room.


Denoting confidence or intimacy
A confidential tone of voice.


(uncountable) Freedom from unwanted or undue disturbance of one's private life.
It takes a village to rob one of a sense of privacy.


Containing information, the unauthorized disclosure of which poses a threat to national security.


(uncountable) Freedom from damaging publicity, public scrutiny, surveillance, and disclosure of personal information, usually by a government or a private organization.
Privacy is assumed by many to be among common-law rights.


(uncountable) The property of being confidential.


A place of seclusion.


(countable) Something told in confidence; a secret.


A relationship between parties seen as being a result of their mutual interest or participation in a given transaction, contract etc.


The state or attribute of being secret; privacy; as, you must respect the confidentiality of your client's communications.


(obsolete) Secrecy.


Discretion in keeping secret information.


A private matter.


The state of being secret;
You must respect the confidentiality of your client's communications


The state of being in retirement from the company or observation of others; seclusion.


Discretion in keeping secret information


A place of seclusion from company or observation; retreat; solitude; retirement.
Her sacred privacies all open lie.


Concealment of what is said or done.


A private matter; a secret.


See Privity, 2.


The quality of being secluded from the presence or view of others


The condition of being concealed or hidden


The act of keeping one's information secure.
Privacy settings can keep your data safe.

Common Curiosities

Are privacy and confidentiality the same?

No, privacy is an individual's right, whereas confidentiality is often a duty imposed on a third party.

Who is responsible for maintaining privacy?

Individuals are primarily responsible for their own privacy but may also rely on laws and systems for protection.

What is privacy?

Privacy is the right to keep one's personal information, activities, and matters secluded from others.

What is confidentiality?

Confidentiality is the obligation to protect someone else's private information from unauthorized access or disclosure.

Is confidentiality legally binding?

Yes, breaches of confidentiality can often result in legal penalties.

Are there laws governing privacy?

Yes, various laws, like GDPR and HIPAA, protect individual privacy.

Who is responsible for maintaining confidentiality?

The parties entrusted with someone else's private information are responsible for maintaining confidentiality.

How is confidentiality maintained in healthcare?

Healthcare providers are obligated by law, such as HIPAA, to keep patient information confidential.

When is it acceptable to breach confidentiality?

Breaching confidentiality is generally only acceptable under extreme circumstances like imminent danger.

Can technology impact privacy?

Yes, technology can both enhance and threaten individual privacy through means like data encryption or surveillance.

Can you have confidentiality without privacy?

No, confidentiality is a means of protecting privacy, so you can't have confidentiality without some form of privacy to protect.

Do companies have a right to privacy?

While not the same as individual privacy, companies do have certain proprietary and trade secret protections.

What happens if confidentiality is broken?

Breach of confidentiality can lead to legal consequences, damaged reputation, and a loss of trust.

Is confidentiality a form of privacy?

Confidentiality can be considered a subset or a tool for ensuring privacy but is not identical to privacy.

Can individuals waive their right to privacy?

Yes, individuals can choose to share their private information, effectively waiving some privacy rights.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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