Privacy remains both contentious and ever more pertinent in contemporary society. Yet it persists as an ill-defined term, not only within specific fields but in its various uses and implications between and across technical, legal and political contexts. This article offers a new critical review of the history of privacy in terms of two dominant strands of thinking: freedom and property. These two conceptions of privacy can be seen as successive historical epochs brought together under digital technologies, yielding increasingly complex socio-technical dilemmas. By simplifying the taxonomy to its socio-cultural function, the article provides a generalisable, interdisciplinary approach to privacy. Drawing on new technologies, historical trends, sociological studies and political philosophy, the article presents a discussion of the value of privacy as a term, before proposing a defense of the term cyber security as a mode of scalable cognitive privacy that integrates the relative needs of individuals, governments and corporations.