What Is Personal Information?
Personal information is very valuable and when it gets into the wrong hands, it can cause a lot of harm. As such, organizations need to understand the various regulations that apply to personal data.
This article will explore the definition of personal information, how different privacy laws define it and what businesses need to do to protect it.
What is personal information?
Personal information is a broad term that encompasses a variety of different types of data. However, it’s important to note that a person’s personal information can be very sensitive and should be protected accordingly.
This means that businesses should always be sure they are processing personal information in accordance with the law. Moreover, they must be sure that they have the right safeguards in place to protect this sensitive data.
As new, stricter privacy laws are passed around the world, the definition of personal information is evolving and changing. For example, California’s recent data protection law defines personal information as a combination of an individual’s first name and last name or their first initial and last name paired up with things like their social security number, driver’s license number, credit card numbers and corresponding security codes, medical records, and browsing history. Information doesn’t have to be kept in a written form, either; it can also be recorded in other mediums such as audio recordings and video.
What is sensitive personal information?
While personal information is defined by varying data privacy laws, some categories of data are more sensitive than others. This is because the information in question could be subject to more serious harm if it falls into the wrong hands, like identity theft, cyberstalking, or discrimination. Sensitive personal information, or SPI, is also often subject to stricter legal guidelines for businesses who collect it.
SPI includes data such as a person’s race or ethnicity, political opinions, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, trade union membership, genetic information, biometric data, and health-related information covered by laws such as HIPAA. SPI is often considered more sensitive than personal information because of the potential damage that can be caused if it is breached or accessed by unauthorized individuals.
This guide outlines the differences between personal information and SPI so businesses can comply with varying data privacy laws. It covers how these distinctions impact a business’s collection, use and storage of user data and what steps they need to take to keep this information safe.
What is non-sensitive personal information?
Non-sensitive personal information is anything that doesn’t qualify as sensitive under privacy laws. Sensitive information is a category that’s defined differently depending on the law, but it typically includes information like race or ethnicity, religious or philosophical beliefs, political opinions, trade union membership and genetic data or biometrics. This data is given extra protection because it could lead to discrimination or harassment if revealed.
However, it’s important to remember that just because a piece of data isn’t considered sensitive doesn’t mean that it couldn’t be combined with other pieces of data to identify an individual. Criminals often use this technique when hacking into bank accounts. For example, a criminal might combine someone’s email address with their mother’s maiden name to figure out the answer to a security question and then steal their money or access their account. Sensitive data should be kept separately from personal information, and it should be encrypted or pseudonymised wherever possible.
What is PII?
PII is information that can be used to directly or indirectly identify an individual. This information can be gathered from public records, phone books, corporate directories and websites. It can also include information about an individual’s past or present health or medical condition.
Typically, PII is considered sensitive because it can be used to commit crimes such as identity theft, which can be extremely damaging to an individual. Those who handle PII are required to follow strict data privacy regulations like HIPAA for medical information, COPPA for children’s online information and GDPR for European data.
PII can be difficult to eliminate from the internet, but there are some steps you can take to minimize your digital footprint. Requesting people-search sites to remove your information, limiting the amount of personal information you share and using tools like AdBlock can all help. However, even if you’re careful, bad actors are coming up with new ways to use your PII.