Don’t Mix Up Secrecy And Privacy


They aren’t the same thing

Secrecy, or hiding things, often gets confused with privacy, or the ability to hide. People conflate the two, and often decide that they connect.

One is passive, the other is reactive. And when they meet, sometimes the results are disastrous.

So What Do You Mean?

The reason people conflate privacy and secrecy is that they are very close to each other. People use both to decide a ton of situations dealing with certain places environment. Things like information security all the way down to how your cubicle placement matter when discussing privacy and secrecy.

One thing I have noticed though, is that when we go to far on one, the other starts to feel the effects. If you create a place with no privacy, watch the secrecy level sky-rocket. When people don’t feel protected, everything they do becomes nerve-racking. Even if things come together in a way where people mean connection, they can’t help but not, because with nowhere to hide, they become hidden people.

A great example: Watch a team go from a closed office space to an open environment with no training or context. There are a ton of studies on this, but if you want the TL;DR, productivity plummets, trust goes down2222 the tube, and “collaboration” gain gets demolished, even if the people in charge meant well.


Both words, secrecy and privacy, are words that are important to people. We aren’t built to share everything at all times, and taking either away often has odd effects.

The key from this is both not to confuse the two, and to understand that sometimes this is inversely connected. Placing someone in a highly private area can make turn them into spies if you aren’t careful. Nothing powerful ever got done in a world lacking trust.

Originally published at Life As Usual.

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