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October 2, 2023
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 min read

PII Compliance: Requirements & Checklist

Ensure your organization's data security with PII compliance. Meet regulatory requirements and protect sensitive information.

PII Compliance: Requirements & Checklist
Calendar Icon White
October 2, 2023
Clock Icon
 min read

PII Compliance: Requirements & Checklist

Ensure your organization's data security with PII compliance. Meet regulatory requirements and protect sensitive information.



What is PII Compliance?

PII stands for Personal Identifiable Information and can be any data that can identify you, from obvious details like your name to more subtle data combinations.Given rising privacy concerns, PII compliance refers to adhering to standards and regulations to protect this data.

PII Across Different Geographies:

The European Union, Australia, and New Zealand all have varying definitions and rules regarding what constitutes PII.

Responsibility for Safeguarding PII:

Both organizations and individual data owners share responsibility.Due to consumer perception, companies often consider themselves responsible for ensuring PII safety, mainly through Data Privacy Frameworks.

Why is PII Compliance Necessary?

Almost all regulatory bodies mandate protective measures for user data.Benefits to companies include enhanced reputation, smoother global expansions, and reduced legal liabilities.

PII Data Classification:

PII data is divided into sensitive (e.g., social security numbers) and non-sensitive (e.g., addresses) categories.Both types need protection, but the approach may differ based on risk.

PII Compliance in the US:

The US has several data privacy laws, starting with the Privacy Act of 1974. Other key acts include HIPAA, COPPA, CCPA, and the New York SHIELD Act.

PII Compliance Checklist:

  • Identify and classify PII data.
  • Create a PII compliance policy.
  • Utilize data security tools.
  • Implement Identity and Access Management (IAM).
  • Continuously monitor and protect PII

What is PII Compliance?

92% of Americans are concerned about privacy when using the internet. This highlights the need for laws in favor of data protection that can make people feel safer when sharing information.

PII (Personal Identifiable Information) is any piece of data that someone could use to figure out who you are. Some of them are easier to identify, such as your name or social security number, yet others can emerge to be more subtle and reveal details only when combined with others. 

This article discusses everything about PII compliance - compliance standards, checklists, and more. 

Personal Identifiable Information (PII) in Different Geographies 

PIIs differ on a wide range of subjects. Hence, every other geography has a different set of rules. Here are some of them. 

In the European Union, Directive 95/46/EC defines “personal data” as information to identify a person via an ID number or factors specific to mental, physical, cultural, and other forms of identity. 

In Australia, the Privacy Act 1988 describes “personal information” as information or an opinion that may be true or false, that is related to an individual, is apparent, or can be reasonably ascertained. This goes much broader than in most other countries. 

In New Zealand, the Privacy Act defines “personal information” as any information related to a living, identifiable human being, including contact information, names, purchase records, and financial information. 

Who is responsible for safeguarding PII?

From a legal standpoint, the responsibility for protecting PII isn’t entirely attributed to organizations; individual owners also share responsibility.

If we go by the numbers, a study by Experian found that 42% of consumers believe it is the company’s responsibility to protect their personal data. Due to this universal perception, organizations consider themselves responsible for PII and ensure maximum safety. The most common and effective way to protect PII is by establishing a Data Privacy Framework.

Do we really need PII compliance?

The short answer to this is yes. 

Almost all regulatory bodies enforce measures for organizations to undertake adequate measures to protect data collected from users online. In some cases, the steps are laid out in detail, and since data leaks and breaches are on the rise, it makes sense for organizations to invest in protecting user data.

Apart from regulations, PII compliance can be helpful to companies in several other ways too. Here’s how:

  1. Improve reputation: Data breaches adversely affect an organization’s reputation. With compliance in place, visitors can be assured of a degree of trust, which helps organizations build credibility.
  2. Global expansions: Every other country has its own set of rules for PII. With PII standards in place, companies can plan expansion in different regions and build trust with the target market.
  3. Reduced legal liabilities: Companies can greatly reduce their liabilities by adhering to existing rules. This helps reduce potential legal fees and penalties.

PII Data Classification: Sensitive and Non-Sensitive PII

PII data can be classified into two major types - sensitive and non-sensitive PII. The following distinction helps one prioritize security tools and processes that ensure PII compliance requirements are rightly met.

Sensitive PII refers to any information with ‘legal, contractual, or ethical requirements for restricted disclosure.’ Some examples of sensitive PII are social security numbers, bank details, passport information, or credit card details, along with medical records under HIPAA. 

➡️Learn more about sensitive data elements here - Strac’s catalog of sensitive data elements.

Non-sensitive PII, on the other hand, is any information that can be found in public records, such as a phone book or an online platform such as LinkedIn. Some of the common categories that make up the non-sensitive PII list are address, contact, date of birth, and so on. 

No wonder PII compliance requires protecting both types of PII data. Sensitive data should be encrypted because of the potential damage it can cause if information is compromised. Alternatively, though non-sensitive data is less of a risk, with sensitive data, PII can be used to commit fraud or identity theft. 

PII Compliance Standards in the US

Data privacy regulations in the United States are complex at the very least. The country first observed its data privacy law in 1974 with the introduction of the Privacy Act of 1974. The law first cleared the air about what federal agencies could collect, manage, and use personal information. 

The bill was well-received but critics claimed that  the US lacks an all-encompassing federal law to govern data privacy.

Then, the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC Act) enabled a broad jurisdiction over commercial entities to allow government agency to prevent deceptive trade. However, it plays a role in enforcing privacy laws. It can impose sanctions on companies for violating consumer data and not maintaining appropriate data security measures. 

Apart from the two above-mentioned laws, some of the other privacy laws in the US are:

  • The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA),
  • The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA),
  • California Privacy Rights Act (CCPA)
  • New York SHIELD Act

PII Compliance Checklist

PII compliance differs from one nation to another, and hence a defined structure is often avoidable. However, one can formulate a step-by-step framework to achieve the principal objectives. 

Here’s the PII compliance checklist that covers them all. 

Step 1: Getting the Basics Right: Identify and Classify PII Data

The road to PII compliance begins with first establishing what PII your organization collects and where it is stored. This basic step is repeated periodically to ensure the standards are met. 

Next, determine what definition of PII applies to your geography or industry. For instance, if you live in California, make sure you meet all the requirements of the CCPA. 

Once you finish the basics, it's time to find out what data is stored and how to gain visibility over others. 

This particular step can be seamlessly achieved using smart AI tools like Strac. With Strac DLP, you can instantly detect and redact PII and PHI data. 

Step 2: Strategize and Build a PII Compliance Policy 

Once you have classified the data in the first step, it’s time to create a PII compliance policy that governs working with personal data. One such framework is GDPR, a data processing framework. Experts suggest that even if the GDPR regulation doesn't govern you, these principles lay the perfect foundation for building your own PII policy. 

Going a step further, the PII compliance policy should have these essential features:

  • An acceptable data usage policy 
  • Detailed audit trails 
  • A schedule for periodic training and retaining
  • Breach notification procedures
  • A data flow map

Step 3: Use Data Security Tools

Achieving PII data compliance involves a layered approach to security. At this stage, your data security tools should prioritize reducing the risk of data leaks and unauthorized individuals accessing non-sensitive and sensitive PII. Concerning data safety at this stage, the data is encrypted and made accessible with endpoint security, and cloud data loss protection (DLP). 

Step 4: Bring IAM into Action

IAM refers to Identity and Access Management. It defines and manages user roles and access for individuals in an organization, ensuring that only the right people can access the resources. IAM requires creating and proactively managing role-based access controls. 

Step 5: Protect PII

Lastly, monitor your PII. Keep your recovery options ready to ensure a timely response to a data breach.  

How does Strac DLP help protect PII?

Strac instantly detects and redacts PII. Strac identifies sensitive data elements across your SaaS apps with a modern no-code scanner and advanced DLP features. Seamlessly integrate Strac with your regular SaaS apps, preventing data leaks and maintain compliance with GDPR, CCPA, HIPAA, and more. 

Strac SaaS DLP integration
Schedule a demo to integrate SaaS DLP in minutes

Further, Strac’s Bubble plugin collects and stores critical, sensitive information. The original product is a no-code leader and is loved by organizations all across the globe.  However, it fails to achieve the highest security standards alone. This is where Strac and its plugin step in to protect sensitive information. 

Read our other Compliance and Data Loss Prevention resources:

Founding Engineer. 9 years at Amazon and AWS.

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