Our quick Q&A will walk you through the terms you need to know and lay out three tips for protecting your customer data.
Q: What is Personally Identifiable Information (PII)?
A: PII is data used to identify a particular person, like their name or email address. PII is extremely useful for marketers who want to better segment, target and advertise to customers. This information helps you identify individuals online so you can apply more relevant messaging to your ads.
Common examples of PII data include (but are not limited to):
- Full Name, Maiden Name or Alias
- Social Security Number, Passport Number or Driver’s License Number
- Bank Account Number or Credit Card Number
- Street Address or Email Address
- Phone Number, Personal IP Address or Personal MAC Address
Q: What isn’t considered PII?
A: Some information on its own doesn’t constitute as PII since more than one person could share that same trait. For example, your birthday or hometown is likely shared by hundreds of thousands of individuals. Unless that data accompanies additional information on a specific individual, it isn’t considered PII.
As a result, most guidelines do not consider these items PII on their own:
- Birth Date, Place of Birth or Current Geographic Location
- Business Phone Number or Business Mailing Address
- Race or Religious Indicator
- Employment, Medical or Educational Background
Q: Why do you need to protect your customers’ PII?
A: Any information that your company stores on customers needs to be properly protected. Many laws are in place to ensure marketers protect their customers’ personal data from loss, unauthorized access or theft. One of the most common concerns is a data breach in which thieves piece together a person’s PII to steal their identity. Thus, misusing or compromising your customers’ personal data can carry a heavy financial cost and significantly damage your company’s reputation.
But protecting your customers is about more than avoiding penalties. At the core, it’s about your moral and corporate responsibility to respect the rights and privacy of individuals. Safeguarding customer information needs to be right up there with quality assurance and eco-friendly initiatives. And if you treat customer data like it’s your own, you’ll only amplify the trust in your relationships.
Q: How can you better protect your customer data?
A: There are several techniques and technologies available for protecting your customer data. If the spotlight is on your data processes, start with these three tips to make better decisions when it comes to protecting your customer data —
1. Use a Secure File Server, not Email
Never share customer files containing PII data through email. Instead, leverage a secure online file server to share your customer data with any agencies, people-based marketing systems or ad platforms necessary. Also, make sure your partners anonymize the uploaded data through a secure hashing process for further protection.
2. Safeguard Access from External and Internal Threats
Set up physical, electronic and procedural safeguards to protect files containing personal information. For example, only use accredited software and technologies to protect against unauthorized access to your systems. Also, restrict internal access of PII data files to only those who need access to execute your advertising or marketing campaigns.
3. Limit Your Exposure
Taking your customers’ privacy seriously is an ongoing process. Set up checkpoints to audit your PII data processes throughout the year. And limit exposure by destroying any unnecessary files containing personal information. Also, ensure any vendors who have access to your customer data adhere to your standards or follow similar guidelines. And always avoid sharing any data with unverified third parties.
As a marketing manager and serial blog writer, Amanda does more than battle bad grammar. With more than 10 years of agency and client inbound marketing experience, she’s obsessed with translating complex digital media topics into incredibly useful content that draws people in.