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What is Personally Identifiable Information?

 , updated on April 17, 2017
Personally identifiable information is a legal term for any information that can potentially be tied back to a specific person. Common examples include your name, social insurance number, IP addresses, serial numbers, registration numbers, login ids, membership identifiers, photographs, biometric records, telephone numbers, address, postal codes and any other factor that can be tied back to a person.
The concept of personally identifiable information is commonly used to define privacy rights. In many cases, organizations comply with privacy laws by processes such as removing identifiers or data obfuscation. In some cases, such information can be re-identified using data analysis techniques.
Protection of personally identifiable information is important to guaranteeing individual rights such as freedom of expression and movement. As with most legal terms, it is interpreted by the courts in each jurisdiction and has no universally excepted definition. The concept tends to have a large number of grey areas such as whether a "34 year old white male who lives in Chicago, works at a coffee shop and drives a red Honda civic" is identifiable.
Overview: Personally Identifiable Information
TypePrivacy
Information Security
DefinitionInformation that can be tied back to a person.
ValueA legal term used to define privacy laws and regulations.
Related ConceptsTechnology Ethics
Privacy

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