PII vs PI: Know What the Differences Are

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Have you ever wondered what the difference between PII vs PI is? In a world where personal information is increasingly vulnerable, it’s important to understand the distinctions between these two terms.

In this article, we will delve into the difference between “PII vs PI”, emphasizing the importance of data protection.

We will also explain why businesses should pay attention to these terms. So, whether you’re simply curious or own a business, this is a must-read!

Key Takeaways

  • PII and PI refer to the personal data of data subjects. They have different purposes. PII data directly identifies individuals, while PI encompasses a larger range of information that can be associated with a person or household.
  • Safeguarding both PII and PI is essential for businesses. You must establish protocols for handling, storing, and disposing of this data to mitigate any issues.
  • In the event of an incident such as a data breach, you should have a plan in place. This involves investigating the situation, correcting any problems, and informing those affected by the breach.

What is a PII?

Personally Identifiable Information (PII) refers to information that identifies an individual, such as their name, email address, or phone number.

However, PII encompasses more than these details. It also includes information like Social Security numbers, banking details, and medical records.

PII can be categorized into two types: sensitive information and non-sensitive information.

Sensitive personal information (sensitive PII) consists of data, including protected health information (like biometric information), financial information, and private documents.

For instance, it involves combinations of names with Social Security Numbers, driver’s license numbers, banking numbers, and medical information. If this information falls into the wrong hands, it can have serious consequences.

Identity theft, financial loss, or even physical harm are risks when sensitive personal data is mishandled. Businesses must exercise caution when handling this type of personal data because any mishandling could result in legal repercussions and a loss of trust from customers.

On the other hand, non-sensitive personal information includes data such as residential location (e.g., zip code), gender identity, race/ethnicity, date of birth, and name. Individually, this information may not appear significant.

However, when combined together, it can provide an understanding of an individual’s identity.

Businesses use this kind of data about data subjects to gain insights into consumer preferences and anticipate their purchasing behavior.

What is a PI?

Personal Information (PI) is a term frequently used in the compliance world. But what does PI cover? Let’s explore further.

Nick Henderson-Mayo, director of learning at Vinciworks says:

“Personal Information (PI) is a broader category of data than Personally Identifiable Information (PII), used in the United States. PI encompasses any information that relates to an individual, even when it doesn’t identify them. This could include their demographics like gender, age and income brackets, purchase history or location data.”

However, PI can also encompass details like your IP address (which serves as a computer’s home address) or unique aspects of your identity, such as your voice or fingerprint. Certain laws like the CCPA and GDPR govern how businesses must handle PI.

According to the CCPA, PI encompasses any information that can be linked to a person or household. However, it doesn’t include information that the government has already shared with the public.

In essence, when we talk about PI, we’re referring to all the various details businesses may possess about data subjects. It is crucial for businesses to handle this information about data subjects responsibly in order to safeguard everyone’s privacy and ensure data protection.

Differences Between PII vs PI

When it comes to data privacy, there are two terms that frequently come up: PII and PI. Although they may sound similar, they have different meanings and applications in the realm of business. Let’s delve into what differentiates them:


PII stands for “Personally Identifiable Information.” It’s something that helps us identify someone uniquely.

Nick Henderson-Mayo says:

“PII is a subset of personal information, encompassing information with a higher sensitivity level and stricter regulation.”

When businesses have someone’s PII, they can be sure it belongs to them and not someone else. This includes details such as their name, Social Security number, or even their fingerprint.

On the other hand, PI refers to “Personal Information.” It encompasses a range of details about a person, including their online activities.

It may involve their name, things like their preferred shopping spots, or websites they frequent. It’s similar to putting together a puzzle. Each piece gives us insights into a person’s life, though it doesn’t always reveal their identity.

Information Covered

PII includes identifiable data, including names, addresses (physical or email), social security numbers, bank account details, passport details, and more, that can be used to directly identify an individual. This type of information is strictly protected by federal and state privacy laws.

On the other hand, PI could include a user’s IP address while browsing online, geographical location history gathered from their mobile phone GPS signals, web searches, and sites visited.

It may not necessarily isolate one person immediately like PII does, but it amounts to important insights into personal behavioral patterns.

Usage of PII vs PI

When a business wants to verify the identity of a person, they rely on personally identifiable information (PII). Let’s take the example of opening a bank account. The bank doesn’t just need information about you, they require a lot of sensitive personal data to confirm you’re really you.

They will ask for information like your name, Social Security number, address, and more. This PII is essential for them to authenticate your identity accurately.

On the other hand, we have information (PI), which focuses more on patterns and general details. Unlike PII, which identifies individuals explicitly, PI helps businesses understand behaviors and trends.

For instance, a retailer might analyze PI to determine that people living in a zip code have a preference for certain products. They don’t necessarily need to know each person’s name or email address, their interest lies in understanding the preferences of a group.

Data Security Measures

Personally identifiable information (PII) is unique to each person. It can disclose their identity. Due to its nature, PII requires security measures, encryption, two-factor authentication, and secure data storage are some methods that businesses use to safeguard PII.

The stakes are high – a breach involving PII can have consequences such as identity theft, financial fraud for your customers, and heavy legal actions on your business.

On the other hand, personal information (PI) encompasses a range of data. While it may not always directly reveal an individual’s identity, it still holds value and potential risks.

For example, real-time location data, browsing patterns, or purchase histories fall under PI.

While the immediate risks may seem lower compared to PII, unauthorized access or misuse of PI can still lead to privacy violations.

Businesses must ensure they obtain consent for collecting and using PI with emerging data privacy regulations that emphasize user privacy.

Additionally, measures like anonymization techniques, data masking procedures, and stringent access controls are often implemented to safeguard PI.

Similarities Between PII vs PI

PII and PI also possess some common characteristics. They both have an impact on how businesses manage and use information. As we dig deeper into this topic, we will explore the similarities of PII and PI. Here are the similarities of PII vs PI:

Sensitive Nature

Both identifiable information (PII) and personal information (PI) have a level of sensitivity attached to them.

PII consists of identifying details that can accurately identify an individual’s identity. On the other hand, PI is a category that includes data that can be linked to a data subject or even a household.

It is evident that both types of data are sensitive and require protection due to their nature. Whether it involves someone’s SSN, name, email address, or browsing habits, this data holds high value.

Collection methods

Businesses use methods to gather both identifiable information (PII) and personal information (PI). These methods include interactions, such, as subscribing to newsletters, as well as offline approaches, like filling out forms at events.

The collection process encompasses facets with the objective of gaining insights that can optimize business operations, customize marketing strategies, or enhance consumer experiences.

Targets of cybersecurity attacks

The internet has its fair share of benefits, but it also brings about risks. Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and Personal Information (PI), due to their worth, frequently become targets for cybercriminals.

These types of data are highly sought after for purposes like identity theft, phishing attempts, and various other cyberattacks. The value placed on information highlights the importance for businesses to strengthen their security protocols.

Both PII and PI require explicit consent from the person to whom it belongs before collection, use, or distribution.

A business must communicate why they are collecting this information, how they plan on using it as well as a clear process for individuals to opt out if desired.

This is applicable under various legislations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in European Union territories where data protection rules have been imposed.

How to Ensure PII & PI Remain Safe?

Both identifiable information (PII) and personal information (PI) are valuable resources for businesses, providing valuable insights into the behavior, preferences, and identities of data subjects.

However, with this value comes a responsibility. In the face of looming cyber threats, it is crucial for businesses to take measures to protect this data.

Let’s delve into the strategies and recommended practices that can help your business strengthen its data protection and compliance.

Create proper data handling protocols

When it comes to handling personal data information, it is essential to have well-defined protocols in place. These protocols serve as guidelines for businesses on how to handle and safeguard this data. Let’s delve deeper into this topic;

  • Access Control: It is crucial to restrict access to data within a business. Clearly define who has permission to view and utilize data. For instance, authorized employees should be able to access consumer information.
  • Usage Guidelines: It’s not about controlling access. It also involves regulating how the data is used. Implement rules regarding what can and cannot be done with the data. This may include restrictions on sharing it with parties without obtaining consent.
  • Storage Protocols: Data requires an environment for storage. Determine where and how the data will be stored, such as utilizing servers or employing encryption techniques. Additionally, ensure that outdated or unnecessary personal data is promptly deleted.
  • Regular Audits: Despite having protocols in place, mistakes can still occur. That’s why it’s important for businesses to conduct checks or audits of their data handling practices. This proactive approach helps identify any errors or improper practices.

Train employees

Employees play a huge role, in safeguarding data. By providing them with compliance training, on the significance of data privacy and the potential risks associated with mishandling it businesses can minimize the likelihood of breaches.

Consistently conducting workshops and keeping employees updated ensures they stay well informed.

Establish a secure network infrastructure

Businesses deal with a significant amount of data. Ensuring its security is crucial. Network security goes beyond the aspects; it involves building trust among all parties involved. Let’s explore how businesses can enhance the protection of their data:

  • Layered Security: Businesses require measures, such as firewalls and secret codes to safeguard against potential threats.
  • System Updates: Cyber threats are always evolving; therefore, keeping software up to date helps in blocking hackers’ attempts.
  • Network Monitoring: Advanced systems can detect activities on the network. Raise an alarm if anything seems amiss.
  • Data Backup: Accidents can occur at any time. By having copies of data nothing is truly lost in unforeseen circumstances.

Perform risk assessments

Regularly conducting risk assessments is not an inspection; it’s a proactive approach to identifying any vulnerabilities in the system.

By evaluating the processes, technologies, and human factors involved, businesses can pinpoint areas that may be prone to breaches or data leaks.

Once these weak points are identified, specific actions can be taken to strengthen defenses, ensure the security of data, and preserve the reputation of the business. This ongoing evaluation and improvement process is crucial in a changing landscape where threats can arise unexpectedly.

Properly dispose of PII & PI

When businesses no longer need personal data, they cannot dispose of it carelessly. It is crucial to ensure that the data is completely eliminated in a safe and secure way, especially when it contains sensitive information.

Physical documents should be shredded thoroughly, while computer files require more than deletion; special tools must be used to ensure their erasure.

When dealing with computers, it is important to either clear personal data or render them inoperable.

If the data exists with businesses or online platforms, it should also be securely removed from those sources. Businesses should regularly dispose of data in order to maintain security and avoid potential compliance violations.

Response plan for data breach

Data breaches can cause damage to your business, impacting its reputation and financial stability. A data breach plan should include identifying the breach, assessing its extent, and implementing measures to mitigate its impact.

Additionally, it is essential for businesses to notify the individuals affected by the breach about what personal data was compromised and outline the steps being taken to rectify the situation.

It is worth noting that there are often requirements regarding the timing and manner of these notifications.

Once immediate concerns have been addressed, it is advisable for businesses to conduct an investigation into the root cause of the breach.

Contact Captain Compliance

Having Captain Compliance on your team means there is always someone who keeps a watch on the changing landscape of personal data privacy rules.

We make sure that our business stays updated with regulations like GDPR and CCPA, follows the best practices, and complies with all international and local regulations through our comprehensive compliance services.

This role is essential due to the varying interpretations and requirements of data privacy laws in jurisdictions. Outsourced compliance to us can help you navigate these laws.


What’s the difference between PII and PI?

Personally Identifiable Information (PII) refers to details that can directly identify an individual, such as their name or Social Security number.

On the other hand, Personal Information (PI) encompasses a range of personal data linked to an individual or household, even if it doesn’t explicitly disclose their identity.

Discover more about the nuances of data privacy on our education page.

Why is it essential for businesses to understand PII and PI?

It’s essential for businesses to have an understanding of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and Personal Information (PI). This knowledge helps them protect data, comply with regulations, and maintain trust with their clients and consumers.

Learn why data privacy is a cornerstone for businesses here.

How can businesses ensure the safety of PII and PI?

To protect information (PII) and personal information (PI), businesses can ensure the security of data by implementing proper protocols for handling data, providing training to employees, establishing a secure network and regularly evaluating potential risks.

Find out more about effective data protection strategies on our education page.

What should a business do in the event of a data breach?

If a data breach occurs, businesses should promptly determine the extent of the breach, evaluate its consequences, implement corrective actions, and responsibly notify the affected individuals.

Additionally, it is crucial to conduct an investigation into the cause of the breach to proactively prevent any future breaches.

Learn about best practices after a data breach here.

How Can Captain Compliance Help?

Navigating the realm of data protection and data privacy can sometimes feel like getting lost in a maze.

At Captain Compliance, we’re here to be your trusted guide every step of the way. Whether you’re just starting out with learning PII and PI or if you’re seeking to fortify your business’s data protection strategies, we’ve got your back.

Knowing PII and PI is only the first step. The next step involves ensuring that your business remains up-to-date and consistently adheres to industry practices. This is where our expertise comes into play.

We’ll assist you in staying well informed about any changes in regulations, making certain that you are always in compliance with the rules, and granting you peace of mind along the way.

Get in touch today for a complimentary consultation for your business!

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