Personal Identifiable Information (PII) and Protected Health Information (PHI) are two of the most essential components of cyber security. PII information identifies an individual, while PHI is sensitive health-related information. Attackers seek these data types, as they can be used for various malicious activities.

Understanding the difference between PII and PHI when protecting sensitive data is essential. PII includes a name, address, social security number, date of birth, and other sensitive data. PHI is health-related information like misinformation, lab results, diagnosis information, and other data that could be used to harm an individual.

To maintain the highest levels of security, businesses and organizations must understand how to protect PII and PHI in their data systems. This includes implementing stringent policies and procedures related to access control, encryption, and authentication. It also involves training employees on properly handling these sensitive types of data.

TAG Solutions is a leader in cyber security solutions, providing comprehensive services to secure sensitive and biometric data. This blog post will explain the differences between PII and PHI and why protecting these two types of information is important.

Cyber Security | A Basic Know-How

what is pii in cyber security

At its core, cybersecurity is safeguarding systems, networks, and programs from digital attacks. These cyber-threats aim to access, change, or destroy sensitive information, interruInformationusiness processes, or extort user money.

Cybersecurity involves implementing measures to prevent attacks, detect them if they occur, and respond to minimize damage.

It constantly evolves as new vulnerabilities are discovered, and new defense mechanisms are developed. In the modern era, where much of our personal, financial, and professional data is stored digitally, cybersecurity has become a critical aspect of everyday life.

Personal Identifiable Information

PII, or Personal Identifiable Information, is any kind of PII data that may be used to identify an individual. This includes names, addresses, phone numbers, Social Security Numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, and other information that can identify an individual’s identity.

This type of sensitive information also encInformationgital identities such as usernames and passwords. Protecting PII is highly valuable to hackers, and if it falls into the wrong hands, it can be used to wreak havoc on an individual’s life.

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PII | Types

Personally Identifiable Information (PII) can be classified into two main categories: Linked Information and Linkable Information. PII can also be categorized based on its level of sensitivity – Sensitive PII and Non-sensitive PII.

Linked Information

Linked Information directly to a person. This includes full name, social security number, driver’s license number, address, email address, passport number, and financial account numbers. These are specific identifiers that uniquely relate to one individual.

Linkable Information

Linkable Information, on the other hand, is less explicit. It can’t independently identify a person, but when combined with other data, it can lead to identification. Such information includes name (without the other), country, city, gender, race, date of birth, job title, or workplace. The particular element of danger with linkable information is that information seems harmless, but when pieced together, it can create a comprehensive profile of a person.

Sensitive PII

Sensitive PII includes data that, if lost, compromised, or disclosed without authorization, can result in substantial harm, embarrassment, inconvenience, or unfairness to an individual. Examples are social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, biometric identifiers, and financial account information, among sensitive PII

Non-sensitive PII, conversely, is information that can be inserted in an unencrypted form without immediate consequences. This could include information such as information or addresses, which can be easily found in a public directory.

De-Identified PII

De-identified PII is information from which information identifiers have been removed. This information might not be given or indirectly led to an individual but is still categorized under PII because there’s a catch. The catch is that this data can be re-identified to point to an individual when combined with other information.

It’s important to understand that PII, no matter the type, is attractive to cybercriminals. They can use it to commit various crimes, including identity theft, financial fraud, or even selling on the dark web. In the digital age, the protection of PII has become a paramount concern for individuals, businesses, and governments across the globe.


phi vs pii

Under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), PII is personal data. The GDPR broadly defines personal data, encompassing any information relating to an identifiable natural person (‘data subject’). This includes name, identification number, location data, online identifier, or one or more factors specific to that person’s physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural, or social identity.

PII Protection Under GDPR

GDPR mandates strict rules for the protection of personal data. Data controllers and processors must take appropriate technical and organizational measures to protect data. The regulation emphasizes transparency, security, accountability, and the individual’s rights, including the right to access, rectify, erase, and object to the processing of personal data.

Consequences Of GDPR Violations

Non-compliance with GDPR can lead to severe penalties. Organizations can be fined up to €20 million or 4% of their global annual turnover, whichever is higher, for the most serious infringements. Moreover, a data breach can damage an organization’s reputation, losing trust and potential business opportunities.

Protected Health Information | A Basic Intro

Protected health information (PHI) refers to any identifiable health data directly or indirectly related to an individual’s physical or mental health. This encompasses a wide range of sensitive and personal information, including information limited to demographic details, medical histories, diagnostic test results, treatment records, and even genetic information.

Due to information for financial harm, discrimination, or other risks, it is crucial to implement stringent security measures to safeguard this data type and ensure its confidentiality and integrity. As the digital landscape evolves and new threats emerge, it is becoming proactive in protecting PHI from unauthorized access or disclosure.

Types Of PHI

Phi can be classified based on the medium in which it is stored, i.e., electronic PHI (ePHI) or paper PHI (PPI). It can also be divided into two categories according to its sensitivity: identifiable and non-identifiable health information.

Identifiable Data

Identifiable health data is one type of PHI, this category of information includes information that can be used to identify an individual. Identifiable health data include names, addresses, birth dates, and social security numbers. Additional identifiers include telephone numbers, email addresses, and any unique identifying number, characteristic, or code.

Clinical Information

Clinical information is anothInformationPHI. This includes data about an individual’s physical or mental health, the provision of healthcare to the individual, or payment for such healthcare created or collected by a healthcare provider, health plan, employer, or healthcare clearinghouse. Examples of clinical information include information records, laboratory results, imaging reports, and other health-related information.

Financial Information

phi vs pii

Financial information-related information also falls under the umbrella of PHI. This data type includes payment information for healthcare services, including credit card numbers, bank account numbers, and insurance policy numbers. Such information is proteInformationHIPAA to prevent financial fraud and identity theft.

Genetic Information

Genetic information is a speInformationof PHI that includes genetic data derived from an individual’s DNA. This category of PHI includes data about gene products and inherited characteristics. Genetic information can reveal an individual’s susceptibility to certain diseases and can be used to tailor medical treatments to the individual’s unique genetic profile.

Demographic Information

Demographic information is also an information type of PHI. This includes data such as age, race, sex, and ethnicity. It is often used in public health research and can help identify health disparities among different population groups.

All these types of PHI need to be protected under federal law. Failure to do so can result in severe penalties, including fines and potential jail time. Therefore, healthcare organizations need robust data security measures to protect this sensitive information and ensure compliance with all relevant laws and regulations.


phi vs pii

Protecting Protected Health Information (PHI) is paramount for maintaining patient data privacy and trust and ensuring compliance with federal laws such as HIPAA. Data breaches in PHI security can lead to severe consequences, including significant financial penalties and damage to the organization’s reputation.

Consequences Of PHI Breaches

The consequences of PHI breaches can be far-reaching, affecting the individuals whose data is compromised and the organizations responsible for safeguarding that data.

For individuals, a breach can lead to identity theft, financial fraud, and even medical identity theft, where an unauthorized person uses the individual’s medical insurance to receive healthcare services. For organizations, PHI breaches can result in hefty fines, legal consequences, and a significant loss of patient trust.

Strategies For Protecting PHI

To prevent these consequences, healthcare organizations must employ robust data security measures. These measures may include data storage and transmission encryption, secure user authentication methods, regular system audits, employee training on data security practices, and developing and enforcing policies and procedures for handling PHI.

The Role Of Technology In PHI Protection

Technology plays a crucial role in PHI protection. With technological advancements such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, healthcare organizations can now secure PHI in more advanced ways. For instance, blockchain technology can provide a secure and transparent way to store and share PHI. At the same time, AI and machine learning can detect unusual patterns or anomalies in the data that may indicate a security threat.

PHI Protection: A Shared Responsibility

PHI protection is a shared responsibility. It requires collaborating with healthcare providers, health IT professionals, and patients. Everyone in this data chain must be vigilant and proactive in ensuring the security and privacy of PHI. This collective responsibility, coupled with advanced technology and strict regulatory compliance, will pave the way for a future where PHI is securely protected and used for the benefit of patients.


In addition to understanding how to protect PII and PHI, it’s essential to understand the difference between PII (Personally Identifiable Information) and PHI. PII and PHI have different usage parameters, primarily due to the nature of the information they encInformationII, or Personally Identifiable Information refers to any data that could potentially identify a specific individual.

This might include details like name, social security number, address, and phone number. PII is widely used across industries for identification, verification, and communication.

PHI, or Protected Health Information, on the other hand, includes personally identifiable information and medical information related to an individual’s health, healthcare provision, or payment for healthcare.

Due to its sensitive nature, PHI is used specifically within the healthcare industry for patient care, medical billing, research, and health and safety standards compliance. The use of PHI is strictly regulated by laws such as HIPAA to ensure the privacy and security of patient health information.


While PII and PHI contain critical personal data, key differences exist in their application, regulation, and protection mechanisms. PII, broadly used across multiple sectors, is fundamental to numerous business operations, such as customer identification or transaction verification.

However, when PII is combined with health-related information, it transforms PHI. Given the high sensitivity of health information, PHI is subject to strict regulations like HIPAA in the U.S., with stringent penalties for breaches. Both types of data serve as keystones in their respective sectors. PII is crucial for businesses across multiple industries, enabling them to identify and communicate with their customers accurately.

While containing PII elements, PHI carries additional value and responsibility in the healthcare sector. It allows healthcare providers to accurately identify patients, provide appropriate care, and process medical billing. TAG Solutions can help organizations of any size maximize the efficiency and security of their PII and PHI data. Contact us today.