Let’s talk about data privacy, personally identifiable information and why all of this matters.
In simple words, data privacy is the protection of sensitive personal data from unwanted third parties who are not supposed to have access to it. It is about defining who has access to a person’s data.
In today’s world, we share our data with a lot of people, and businesses. When you enter your personal data like your name, date of birth, and address it is important to know that the data will not be shared with any third party without your knowledge or permission. This is what data privacy means. If the company does not comply with the data privacy regulations set by the government, it leaves your data easily accessible to malicious insiders or outside hackers who can use it for their own gain. There have been thousands of cases of identity theft in recent years and this has made people even more conscious of the subject of data privacy. More and more people are becoming conscious about the importance of protecting their personally identifiable information (PII) and increasingly paying attention to the compliance of businesses with data privacy laws.
So what is personal data or personally identifiable information?
Personally identifiable information is a term that generally refers to information about an individual that an organization can use to identify, locate or contact them. It is usually used in pertinence to sensitive data about an individual that should be kept secure by any organization that they share it with. Information that can be shared without causing the person harm will fall under the category of non-sensitive PII. Sensitive PII on the other hand needs to be stored and transmitted in a secure manner that will avoid any harm to the individual. If such information is disclosed, it can cause them harm in many ways. Organizations differentiate sensitive PII from non-sensitive PII to process, store and manage information with responsibility so they can maintain security and comply with legal requirements.
In the United States, PII includes information like social security number, name and biometric records of an individual that can be used for tracing their identity. In the European Union, PII includes information like ID numbers and physical, mental, cultural or physiological factors that can be used for identifying a person. The regulations in Australia include a much broader classification of PII that includes various factors that can determine a person’s identity. Similarly, different countries have a few differences in the exact definition of personally identifiable information that they require businesses to protect under data privacy laws. The common intent is to protect their citizens personal data so it cannot be used for any crime or malicious intent.
What does PII data include?
- Full name
- Home address
- ID number
- Social security number
- Driver’s license
- Birth date
- Birth place
- Phone number
- Credit card number
- Bank account number
- Passport number
- Login name
- Email ID
- Vehicle plate number
Governments and businesses have been taking data privacy more seriously these days as common citizens have become more conscious about the way their personal information is stored and shared. It is crucial that there is a strict policy and management system to ensure data privacy in any organization.
What happens when Data is not protected?
If a person’s personal data gets into the wrong hands, there can be many unwanted consequences. If a criminal gets a hold of sensitive financial data like your credit card number or bank account details, they can use it to steal money or make unauthorized purchases. If someone gets access to information like your birth date, social security number, address, etc, they can use it to commit identity theft.
Data privacy goes beyond just the PII of customers or employees. It also includes information pertaining to the organization itself, whether it is their financial information or research data. If sensitive data from a government agency is not secured, it could easily fall into the hands of the enemy state or terrorists who can use it for great harm. If there is a breach at a corporation, it compromises their customer data as well as their proprietary data and could allow competitors to misuse it. A person’s medical information can also be used for malicious purposes if there is a data privacy breach at a clinic or hospital. Similarly, any such instance where an individual’s sensitive PII is not protected could lead to a lot of unwanted scenarios.
In this digital age, data privacy matters a lot more than it ever has before and everyone needs to pay heed to its importance. A lot of people end up sharing more information than they realize through the internet and any of it could end up in the hands of hackers who can misuse it if there is lack of data privacy law compliance.