Our screen times increased significantly over the past year, and a lot of the time that we spend on the internet is linked to social media. We use it for more than connecting with others; it has also developed into a quick and easy way to verify our identity.
Over the last few years, we have become aware of major companies selling our data to gain profit. The time we spend building our online profiles and linking them to various sites had also been the time we unintentionally spent giving our Personally Identifiable Information away.
What does Personally Identifiable Information mean exactly, and how can we protect it in this day and age? Moreover, should companies be responsible for keeping our data safe?
Breaking Down PII
Personally Identifiable Information (or PII) is an umbrella term for any data that can identify you specifically as an individual. Therefore, it refers to your name, location, contact information, date of birth, demographic information, health data, social security number, etc.
PII is useful for distinguishing people and confirming their identity. It is collected in hospitals, education facilities, but also by a variety of online businesses. The latter has been the most concerning for the masses of late.
In recent years, Personally Identifiable Information has been used by numerous corporations to gather information on their customers and target them with specific ads.
There is also a lot of data we provide willingly to online businesses or in exchange to use their products. Nevertheless, a lot of additional data that is collected is something we didn’t sign up for.
Are Companies Responsible to Keep Your PII Safe?
It is still unclear who should be responsible for the privacy of our data. Should it be the government, companies, or individuals themselves?
That also depends on the country. For instance, while some parts of the world may have specific laws that govern the privacy of your personal information, such as GDPR in Europe, the U.S. lacks all-encompassing legislation that handles data protection.
That leads to a variety of loopholes businesses can exploit and continue working while avoiding the legal consequences.
Consumers automatically assume that companies have their privacy and best interests at heart. Therefore, a client’s trust is a starting point for them, giving you the necessary data and using your services. When that trust is broken, it is hard, if not impossible, to get it back.
Therefore, even if companies find loopholes, they can use to avoid legal action resulting from PII violation, the privacy of their customer’s data should matter a great deal to them.
How Can Companies Avoid Losing Their Clients?
Customers are aware of these important privacy issues, leading them to be more careful when choosing who they should trust.
One way to gain trust is by being transparent about the data usage in your company.
Customers should know why their data is gathered and recorded, for how long and whether any additional information is going to be collected if they use your services.
Encrypting Personally Identifiable Information can also help with keeping client’s data safe and make them feel more secure.
The third factor to consider is the organizing data management systems that track where you store customer’s PII and for how long.
What Can you do to keep Your PII Secure?
The aftermath of the inability to keep our personal data safe goes way beyond violating privacy policies. It can lead to crimes such as identity theft that can have both financial and psychological consequences.
Most of what falls under PII is considered our sensitive information, i.e. something we expect to stay confidential and not up to grabs for online-based companies. Replacing your passwords with stronger ones and storing them in a free password vault is definitely something you should consider.
Nevertheless, it is hard to avoid personal data gathering on sites you use daily for personal and business needs. This means you need to be mindful of who has your information as an individual.
A quick Google search to find out if the company has reputable data security policies can go a long way.
Keeping our Personal Identifiable Information safe is more important today than ever. Even though various online-based companies in the past have misused PII, it is evident that data privacy matters to customers.
By keeping track of their PII, encrypting client’s data, and being transparent with their practices, companies can keep their customer’s trust and gather data necessary for them to operate.
Are you doing enough to make sure your confidential data remains your own?