Is data encryption equivalent to anonymization?

Anonymization and encryption are terms familiar to many people, and unfortunately they are used interchangeably. Data encryption and data anonymization are separate processes that, of course, can be performed simultaneously, but in many cases one cannot replace the other. So what are the differences between anonymization and encryption? What does pseudonymization have to do with each process and what is it responsible for? Read the text to learn all about the processes of hiding data on the web.

What is anonymization?

Data anonymization by, for example, blurring photos and completely removing metadata is an irreversible process, after which any recovery of data from a photo, document or even a video will no longer be possible unless we have the original version available in the archive. The anonymized information loses the status of sensitive data, confidential data and personal data in general, and ceases to be subject to the GDPR, so we can freely distribute it on the web and we won’t break any regulations by doing so.


What is encryption?

Encryption, otherwise known as data encryption. Data is encoded in such a way that it is made invisible to people who don’t have the keys, passwords or other information needed to decode it. Data encryption can apply to our location or browsing history on the internet. Encryption also extends to government and medical databases containing millions of data on various individuals around the world. An email we receive from a bank may be encrypted and can only be decoded with a password set by the sender. In other words, encryption is like hiding something in a safe to keep data from being accessed by unauthorized people.

Pseudonymization – what does it have to do with anonymization?

Pseudonymization is a process slightly opposite to anonymization and has more in common with encryption than it may seem. The process allows you to protect your data from third parties in a similar way to encryption. Taking an example of a name, in pseudonymization all the letters are converted into a string of letters, numbers or characters to prevent attribution of that string of characters to a specific person without the use of a key. Pseudonymization is a completely reversible process, as long as the key to decode the data is not destroyed or forgotten.

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