Personal Information Defined

by | Aug 12, 2013 | Data | 0 comments

“Information is the currency of the Twenty First Century” (Alvin Toffler).

With all of the discussion about the National Security Agency (NSA) and its data collection programs, and our own discussions around protecting, controlling and monetizing data, we thought it might be instructional to review the two basic types of “personal information,” especially as they relate to advertising, marketing, privacy and identity.

Generally, there are two major categories of personal information:

1. Non-Personally Identifiable Information

2. Personally Identifiable Information

Non-Personally Identifiable Information

Non-personally identifiable information includes data that does not directly reveal an individual’s identity. The Network Advertising Initiative defines non-Personally Identifiable Information as the following:

“Non-Personally Identifiable Information is information that is not used on its own to identify, contact, or precisely locate a particular individual. This data consists primarily of click-stream information (sites you have visited or links you have clicked) that is tied to a randomly generated anonymous identifier.”

Examples of Non-Personally Identifiable Information:

  • Browser type
  • Browser plug-in details
  • Local time zone
  • Date and time of each visitor request (i.e. arrival, exit on each web page)
  • Language preference
  • Referring site
  • Device type (i.e. desktop, laptop, or smartphone)
  • Screen size, screen color depth, and system fonts

 Personally Identifiable Information

Of greater concern, is the misappropriation and misuse of Personally Identifiable Information. As defined by the U.S. General Services Administration, Personally Identifiable Information is:

Information about a person that contains some unique identifier, including but not limited to name or Social Security Number, from which the identity of the person can be determined. In OMB M-06-19 (July 12, 2006), “the term Personally Identifiable Information means any information about an individual maintained by an agency, including, but not limited to, education, financial transactions, medical history, and criminal or employment history and information which can be used to distinguish or trace an individual’s identity, such as their name, social security number, date and place of birth, mother’s maiden name, biometric records, etc., including any other personal information which is linked or linkable to an individual.”

Examples of Personally Identifiable Information is information:

  • Name
  • Social Security Number
  • Date and Place of Birth
  • Health Records
  • Financial Information

Personally Identifiable Information is any data that identifies and/or can be linked to YOU. Advertisers are not interested in Personally Identifiable Information. They are, in fact, legally restrained from using Personally Identifiable Information unless specifically authorized by the individual.

It may be that increased ad relevancy based on non-Personally Identifiable Information is responsible for misconception regarding digital privacy.

As we move into the future, our personal information will continue to be more broadly collected and utilized. Understanding the differences in Personally Identifiable Information and non Personally Identifiable Information and how they are used may provide some piece of mind as the Age of Information continues.


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