What is PII?

PII, or personally identifiable information, is any piece of data that someone could use to figure out who you are. Some types of PII are obvious, such as your name or Social Security number, but others are more subtle—and some data points only become PII when analyzed in combination with one another.

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Breaches involving PII are hazardous to both individuals and organizations. Individual harms may include identity theft, embarrassment, or blackmail. Organizational harms may include a loss of public trust, legal liability, or remediation costs. Breach of PII could also lead to regulatory and legal issues.

What is PII information?

Here a few examples, but are not limited to:

  • Name: full name, maiden name, mother’s maiden name, or alias

  • Personal identification numbers: social security number (SSN), passport number, driver’s license number, taxpayer identification number, patient identification number, financial account number, or credit card number

  • Personal address information: street address, or email address

  • Personal telephone numbers

  • Personal characteristics: photographic images (particularly of face or other identifying characteristics), fingerprints, or handwriting

  • Biometric data: retina scans, voice signatures, or facial geometry

  • Information identifying personally owned property: VIN number or title number

  • Asset information: Internet Protocol (IP) or Media Access Control (MAC) addresses that consistently link to a particular person

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