What is PII and Why Should We Protect It?

What is PII and Why Should We Protect It?

Personal Identifiable Information or PII is any type of information that can lead directly to a specific individual. Any piece of data usable for contacting, identifying or locating a person either alone or with other more easily accessible information, requires proper security while handling.

The federal government monitors businesses’ security practices and how they protect both PII and PHI, or Personal Health Information. Due to the constant risk of this information’s compromise, ways to more efficiently govern this are key. Any public release of this information could easily result in severe repercussions for individuals affected.  The clear first step is properly protecting this information is understanding exactly how important it really is.

What is PII?

Personal Identifiable Information is most simply any number sequence corresponding to an individual. See the list of a few more common examples below.

  • Driver’s License numbers, passport numbers, patient indentification numbers, medical records number, account or credit card numbers and especially social security numbers.
  • Any individual’s full name to include maiden name or any aliases
  • Asset information including IP addresses or a MAC address or any other static identifier that may link a person
  • Address information, street address or email address, as well as phone numbers for both business or personal use
  • Characteristics, biological or personal, such as fingerprints, x-rays, or an image or description of distinguishing features
  • Personal information that links to date or place of birth, activities, habits, religion, geographic indicators, or any educational, medical or financial information
In many scenarios, a single piece of the above list of data is harmless. However, one or two together with other more accessible information can easily result in vulnerability.

A reputable Document Management Company can help you safely scan and store records in a way that allows you easy access while also maintaining the level of security that PII and PHI require. Many offer redaction services to sanitize the personal information from these same records so they may be released to courts or for other business purposes.  Secure shredding of original documents containing confidential information is the final step in the proper handling of PII or PHI and ensures complete destruction of all confidential information.


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