What is personally identifiable information (PII)?

Personally Identifiable Information (PII) refers to any information that can be used to identify a specific individual. This information is sensitive in nature and can be exploited for various malicious purposes if not handled and protected appropriately. PII encompasses a wide range of data, and its definition may vary across different jurisdictions, but generally, it includes the following types of information:

  1. Basic Identification Data:
    • Full name
    • Date of birth
    • Social Security number
    • Passport number
    • Driver's license number
  2. Contact Information:
    • Home address
    • Email address
    • Phone numbers
    • Social media account details
  3. Financial Information:
    • Bank account numbers
    • Credit card numbers
    • Financial transaction history
  4. Health Information:
    • Medical records
    • Health insurance information
    • Biometric data
  5. Biographical Information:
    • Employment history
    • Educational background
  6. Online Identifiers:
    • IP addresses
    • Usernames
    • Device identifiers

The technical aspects of handling PII involve several key considerations:

  1. Data Encryption:
    • PII should be encrypted during transmission and storage to protect it from unauthorized access. Strong encryption algorithms and secure key management practices are essential.
  2. Access Control:
    • Implement strict access controls to ensure that only authorized individuals have access to PII. This involves user authentication, role-based access control, and regular auditing of access logs.
  3. Data Minimization:
    • Collect and store only the minimum amount of PII necessary for the intended purpose. Unnecessary data should be deleted or anonymized.
  4. Anonymization and Pseudonymization:
    • Anonymizing or pseudonymizing PII can provide an additional layer of protection. Anonymization removes personally identifiable features, while pseudonymization replaces identifiable information with a pseudonym.
  5. Secure Storage:
    • PII should be stored securely using industry best practices, including secure databases, encryption, and regular security audits.
  6. Data Breach Response:
    • Establish protocols for detecting and responding to data breaches promptly. This may involve notifying affected individuals, regulatory bodies, and implementing corrective measures.
  7. Legal Compliance:
    • Adhere to relevant data protection laws and regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the United States.
  8. Employee Training:
    • Ensure that employees are trained on data protection policies and understand the importance of safeguarding PII.