Personal Privacy vs. Security – Do We Have to Choose?

Since the dawn of the mobile era, there has been a continuous fight for an increase in the security measures taken to protect user’s data sent through mobile apps.

When various mobile messaging apps began rolling out encryption, it came as no surprise that consumers and security aficionados rejoiced. After all, encryption is more or less a high-tech way of creating a code for users’ data so that it can’t be read by prying hackers – thus allowing them to safely peruse their apps of choice. What did come as a surprise, however, was the potential backlash of cybercriminals utilizing encryption to plot their crimes. This backlash is the cause of the current conundrum we are in when regarding the debate between personal privacy and security.

So, if it came down to it, what would you choose: your personal privacy rights or the safety and security of the masses?

This seems like quite the brain exercise, but with recent discussions and hearings around banning encrypted mobile messaging apps, this may not be a purely theoretical question much longer.

As we’ve discussed before, encryption is a key security measure that mobile apps employ to help protect a user’s data from the spying eyes of invasive hackers. Encryption makes possible everything from e-commerce and online banking to secure mobile messaging and file-sharing.

However, as some are beginning to note, one side effect of encryption is that it creates a “safe space” for those with malicious intent to communicate and share information privately. More specifically, the concern is that these safe spaces create protected breeding grounds for cybercriminals to plot and plan their attacks.

If the above is indeed true, then where do we draw the line between personal privacy and the monitoring of potentially threatening and harmful information? Should users of encrypted mobile messaging apps be willing to turn over their personal data for the sake of society’s protection?

While at times it may seem like security infringes privacy, this should not be the case. The two concepts actually complement one another, and consumers should not have to forgo one in order to have the other.

A great example of privacy and security working together can be seen through the McAfee® Mobile Security product. Free for both Android and iOS, it offers a variety of protections for users’ data, while also weeding out cybercriminals who are up to no good.

For the time being at least, encryption is here to stay. We’ve come too far in terms of our security developments for a technology like this to disappear without significant backlash. As both general consumers and those with malicious intent continue to have access to tools like encryption, it’s important to have discussions about how to gather security intelligence while still respecting users’ privacy rights.

Of course, when users allow any apps to access their personal information, there must be an understanding that the data may not be completely private. Therefore, until the argument about encryption and personal safety is settled, the simplest course of action is to avoid these apps altogether—or at least avoid sharing sensitive information on and with them.

As always, to keep up with the latest security threats, make sure to follow @IntelSec_Home on Twitter, and Like us on Facebook.