6 Examples of Personally Identifiable Information Online

Whether you like it or not we are living in a world that revolves around data. The amount of data is increasing by the second and every company wants more of it. Most of this data is shared with our consent by using their products or services. The general population doesn’t realize how much data and examples of personally identifiable information we are oversharing on a daily basis and the potential harm it can have in the future.

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Most of the time the information we share is due to our need for simplicity, discounts, and connectivity. We overshare our information on a daily basis by using services and apps, free trials, and exclusive newsletters. These are a few examples of how easy it is to give away your information in exchange to use simple services.

To think that we can stop sharing data and information whenever we would like is laughable. Unless you are willing to give up using your smartphone, a credit card to purchase goods, automated toll stations, or any other modern convenience you use on a daily basis, there is no way to not share some of your data.

Although this may seem like a new phenomenon, data has always been readily available, it just required more investigation and work to obtain.

The same data can be found by digging through courthouse records, administrative offices, and other public record venues. The introduction of the internet has shown people the reality of how much data is out there and how easy it is to gain access to.

How Is My Information Being Shared & Used?

Companies will use your information for a variety of purposes. Businesses want to send you an offer, companies want to better understand how customers like their products or services, or to improve customer service. In other instances, they use the information to protect the users and the company from risks related to fraud. These are typically the most common known ways companies will use your information.

Companies will rent or buy lists of individuals that they believe fit the demographic or would be interested in their products or services. They then use these lists to target and market to these individuals to hopefully turn them into future customers. These lists come from many sources including public records, telephone directories, and companies that exchange their customer files for marketing purposes to other organizations.

This list usually includes basic information on your purchase history and basic contact information. They use these lists to send postal mail, emails, or text you with offers or special promotions.

Using this method companies are able to reach non-customers who potentially can be turned into a customer in the future. 

It is also a common practice for companies to have a marketing file of names, addresses, and other information related to customers’ purchases. Marketing data may also include household characteristics obtained from surveys you filled out or by having communication with you.

There a still other uses of personal information that you might not be aware of like court tracing parents who fail to meet their child support obligations, investigators conducting background checks, or law enforcement apprehending individuals. Most of these types of uses of personal information are for the betterment of society.

What Kind of Information Is Available?

Public Records

This information usually comes from state and federal government resources including property deeds, marriage and professional licenses, and birth and death records. Information is also made publicly available from other sources like court proceedings, voter registration files, driver’s license records, and motor vehicle registration. Various federal and state laws place restrictions on the use of some of these sources. 

Publicly Available Information

This is information that anyone can gain access to. This would include telephone directory information, professional registries, classified ads, information posted online or in chat rooms, on blogs, and in public sections on online social network sites. Publicly available information isn’t always regulated by law but is self-regulated through using industry codes of conduct.

Customer Information

This information is obtained when you provide details about yourself to a company or organization when you purchase a product or service, donate, or register a product warranty.

The detailed information you provide may include how to contact you and a record of your interactions with the company or organization. Responsible organizations form their policies to maintain appropriate use of their information.

Self-Reported Information

Information that you voluntarily provide on a survey or questionnaire is considered self-reported.

You should be informed of the intended use when this information is collected. Law and industry practices both limit the use of this information.

Passively-Collected Information

The internet and other technologies like the smartphone can use location tracking features and may collect information on you without you taking any action.

Some of the data collection is necessary to provide a certain service, like recording the number of times a car went through a toll booth to know how much to charge that specific car.

The collection of this information can also be used to provide relevant advertising, such as offering a discount on a coffee shop near your location or providing online advertisements based on other websites you recently visited or keywords you recently searched for. Law and industry practices both limit the use of this information.

Personally Identifiable Information (Sensitive)

Some information if used inappropriately can have major consequences. This type of information includes your social security number, driver’s license number, medical records, wage and salary information, tax reports, credit reports, and any other information that personally identifies your children. Most sensitive information should be kept confidential unless you give specific permission or unless it is permitted, or required, under state or federal law. 

To develop credit reports, credit agencies gather information from banks and other financial institutions. Employers, landlords, and insurance companies may ask your permission to perform a background check. 

To protect consumers from potential fraudulent activities, the Federal Trade Commission closely regulates the use of this sensitive personally identifiable information as directed by the Fair Credit Reporting Act and Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act.

This legislation has had a massive impact on privacy laws and practices. Get more information about state-based privacy laws in this guide.

Final Thoughts on Personally Identifiable Information

The amount of information and data that is available today is the largest it has ever been. Now that we are realizing as a whole the amount of information we are oversharing on the daily basis will make us rethink what we share and how we share it. Worrying about leaving your data and information in the hands of companies can be a thing of the past if we know what to share and what not to.

Of course, to use certain services or obtain specific offers you will have to share information, but you can also be mindful of what companies you are sharing with and how much personal information you are sharing. 

Not all uses of information are bad and not all companies want to use your information for the wrong reasons. It is a skill to learn how to share appropriately and what not to share with specific companies. Also knowing the different types of information is important so you know what should be made publicly available and what should not. Learning these skills takes practice and time but will be well worth the effort by keeping your personal information private and secure!

Protect Your Personal Data

Let Removaly keep a watchful eye on your personally identifiable information with automated, real-time data removal.

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