What is PII–Personally Identifiable Information?

Author: Mike | Date: February 11, 2019 | Categories: , ,

Personally identifiable information is any data or content that can be used to identify, contact, or locate an individual.  Your PII can be used to single you out among millions of other people. Your unique information is linked to every aspect of your life.  Things such as your credit scores, ability to drive, or even your healthcare can be connected to you by PII.

What can be considered PII?

Name, this includes a person’s full name, maiden name, or any alias they may be using


Driver’s license, state identification card number or passport number

 Social security number or tax ID number

Address and phone number information, this includes email or physical address

Medical information or patient identification number

Login credentials

Financial login information or PINs

Credit card or account numbers

Biometric data, such as retina scan, x-rays, voice signature, fingerprints or face geometry

Specific information about a person, birthplace, activities, religion, or education

Certain pieces of information alone may not be considered PII. However, when they are combined with other pieces of information, they can become PII. For example, your name alone may not be considered PII, but when combined with your email address or the last four of your social security number it can become PII.

This KnowBe4 PDF sums up PII very nicely.

Your PII holds enormous value to identity thieves. With your information, criminals can:

Use your debit card number to steal funds

Open a new credit card or loan

Open a bank account to write bad checks

Give your personal information in the event of an arrest

Acquire a new driver’s license or ID

And much more

PII and Data Breaches

There are several ways for your PII to end up in the wrong hands.  However, data breaches are one of the most talked about methods.  Whether a data breach is by accident or intentional, they can cause significant issues for all involved. 

Over the past 6-months, there have been numerous data breaches affecting millions of people. On September 28, 2018, Facebook announced that nearly 50 million user accounts had been compromised. Facebook acknowledged that attackers exploited vulnerabilities in the website’s code allowing them to take over user accounts.   And again on December 14, an API bug granted permission to third-party apps to access user photos affecting 6.8 million users and 1500 apps.  

On November 30, 2018, Marriott International announced personal data of 500 million customers had been compromised. This breach included names, birthdates, mailing addresses, phone numbers, emails, passport numbers, reservation information, some payment information. 

PII Protection for Business Owners

If your business or organization regularly handles PII, ensuring the proper protections are in place is a must! No matter how large or small your network may be, no network is ever immune to a security breach.  Data exist everywhere within your network, but by added security steps you can eliminate some of the risk while protecting your business, employees, and customers information.  The ultimate danger for business’ that experience a data breach is the possibility that their consumers or clients could lose faith in your company and its ability to protect their personal information. Begin creating a culture of security for your business or organization today.  If personal information needs to be shared or requested, using a secure form like our Secure Online Form Service can ensure PII is collected and stored safely. 

Protecting your PII as a Consumer

Although you cannot prevent PII data breaches from accruing, you can do your best to protect your information. The less you share your personal information—the better.  However, we do live in a digital world where sharing information is a regular part of life.   Next time someone asks for PII, truly think about why they need it.  If sharing specific information is a must, ask them how they will protect it.  Additionally, consider limiting what you share on social media and remember to shred important documents before discarding.  Each individual generates a large amount of PII and with each piece of data shared you could be providing a criminal with a new puzzle piece.  Start protecting your information today and reduce your risk of identity theft.

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