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Privacy can mean different things to people. Protecting one's identity from autocratic regimes to ex-boyfriend/girlfriends/partners. Threat modeling goes some way in understanding actors and the potential options in mitigating these.

Guides such as Security in a Box, Privacy Tools, Privacy Tests, Privacy Guides offer techniques and tools in protecting privacy and against digital/analog threats to those who may not be experts in either privacy and/or security.

While these help simplify complex topics into a series to things to do and not do, what are some of the ways of identifying and measuring trade-offs between security & privacy?

As an example, if a user chooses to use Google Chrome because it's perceived to have a stronger security model than say Mozilla Firefox, it may reduce the privacy posture unless potentially additional considerations are implemented.

For instance, the browser comparison suggests that Mozilla has native tracking protection but Google Chrome doesn't. How does a user identify and measure these trade-offs?

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    What do you mean by trade-off? We speak about trade-off when two things lead to opposite effects. Do you mean that more security means less privacy and less security means more privacy? That would be nonsense. Actually, one of the goals of security is providing privacy. And to get more privacy, you need more security. Try to formulate your question in other words.
    – mentallurg
    Apr 11 at 19:09
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    I'm not entirely sure what the question is asking. Privacy and security are not necessarily mutually exclusive, depending on threat model.
    – forest
    Apr 11 at 19:17
  • @mentallurg, the definition of a trade-off in this context is if a user for example opts to adopt Google Chrome as it's perceived to have a stronger security model than say Mozilla Firefox, it may reduce the privacy posture unless other additional considerations are implemented. The question I'm asking is how does someone identify and measure these so that they are aware that extra actions may need to be taken.
    – fenixleon
    Apr 11 at 19:22
  • @fenixleon: Then it is incorrect to speak about "security vs privacy". Security means the whole that includes privacy. In your specific case you can formulate it as "trade-off between availability, integrity, authenticity on one side and confidentiality on the other side" or "trade-off between different security aspects" or similar. But opposing security and privacy is incorrect.
    – mentallurg
    Apr 11 at 21:31
  • @fenixleon: The article you linked has the same problem. At the beginning the author changes the meaning of the word security by removing privacy from security. The author says that the article is actually about "resistance to exploitation". If that is your question, then please change the title to "resistance to exploitation vs privacy".
    – mentallurg
    Apr 11 at 21:53

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The canonical example is of course content inspection (by nation, company, school, etc). This goes back to the pre-computer era; if your country's postal service is opening letters and packages to inspect them (maybe for state secrets, maybe for illegal materials or weapons) then this is a clear win for national security, but a huge loss for personal privacy.

The equivalent happened in the telephone era with "wiretapping"; both active eavesdropping, and passive "metadata collection" of who called who and for how long.

The equivalent is happening today with things like SMS, email, and browser traffic. Take for example, companies that want to monitor all traffic on their network to detect and block malware entering the network and corporate secrets leaving the network. Win for security at the expense of all employee privacy.


There is probably a similar story with regards to anti-virus and other invasive endpoint monitoring tools. Even uploading the file hashes of files on your system to a anti-virus server may allow someone to track, for example, what you have installed on your computer.


There is also usage of "cloud services". Gmail undoubtedly does a better job of security than I would if I ran my own mail server, but that comes at the direct privacy cost of allowing Google to mine my emails for advertizing purposes.

Similar story for password managers: a cloud-based password manager is better for security than trying to sync it across all my devices myself -- and especially so if you consider Availability to be part of security -- but that comes at the expense of privacy, for example an attacker monitoring my network traffic could see that I always have traffic to lastpass and to my bank at the same time.

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  • what did you use to identify and measure for example Google doing a better job at security and the impact it has to privacy that users other than specialists can reference so that they can make an informed decision about the choices they make? For instance, it is it sufficient to take the information from Privacy Tests at face value that Brave does a better job with privacy and thus security if I cite @mentallurg's comment Actually, one of the goals of security is providing privacy. And to get more privacy, you need more security?
    – fenixleon
    Apr 12 at 0:00
  • @fenixleon Sounds like you're asking me to write a fully-cited academic paper for you. Apr 12 at 18:55
  • I'm seeking clarification. For instance, if one of ways of identifying and measuring was to use resources such as Privacy Tests, it's potential reference and a benchmark in the decision making process. You may also say that you did X and Y to complement the resources. Maybe another way to ask the question is if you had to choose between Chrome and Brave as a non-security user, what would you do to come to a decision?
    – fenixleon
    Apr 13 at 5:26

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