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Personally Identifying Information (PII): How is it destroyed?

With the current state of data privacy regulations, such as GDPR and CCPA, securing personal information (PII) is more important than ever. To protect customers’ data, organizations must securely destroy PII when it is no longer needed.

PII is defined by the US Department of Homeland Security as “any information that can be used to distinguish or trace an individual’s identity, either alone or when combined with other personal or identifying information that is linked or linkable to a specific person.”

It encompasses anything from basic contact info and social security numbers to biometrics, financial information, and even web activity habits – all of which are used to represent someone in the digital world. 


Read More: What is considered PII data?

As a business owner or executive, it’s your responsibility to take the proper steps to ensure that PII is destroyed in a secure and compliant manner that adheres to established security protocols and regulatory requirements. There are several methods used to securely destroy PII. 

This method involves destroying hard copies of documents containing PII data. This can include shredding paper documents, destroying backup tapes and disks, and smashing digital devices containing sensitive information. Physical destruction must be done in a secure environment where no unauthorized persons have access. 

Many companies will provide on-site document shredding services for businesses that need to dispose of large amounts of paper documents. The shredded paper can then be recycled or disposed of in an environmentally friendly way. It is important to choose a reliable file shredding service provider who follows secure practices when handling confidential documents.

For organizations that have old computer hardware with sensitive information stored on them, hard drive destruction is an effective way to securely destroy PII beyond retrieval. This process involves physically destroying hard drives so they cannot be accessed or retrieved by any means. 

Hard drive destruction services will usually come to your location and use specialized equipment to break down your hardware into small pieces that cannot be reassembled or accessed in any way.

Digital destruction involves erasing digital files containing PII data using specialized software designed specifically for this purpose. This type of software overwrites the existing data on a device with random strings of code so that the original information can no longer be retrieved. It also works with different types of devices, including hard drives, flash drives, and smartphones. 

Data erasure software should be certified by a third party to ensure that it meets industry standards for secure destruction of PII. When properly executed, this method ensures that the erased files are unrecoverable so there is no risk of them being accessed by unauthorized persons.  

Sanitization involves overwriting existing files with new ones in order to make sure that all traces of the original file are gone and unrecoverable. This includes not only deleting the file but also any meta-data associated with the file such as comments or tags. Sanitization should always be done over multiple passes in order to make sure all traces are removed from storage media such as hard drives or USB sticks.

Data breaches occur when sensitive or confidential information is accessed without authorization. Reducing the risk of data breaches saves organizations from financial and reputational damage. By destroying data that is no longer needed, businesses can help to reduce the risk that it will fall into the wrong hands.

In many jurisdictions, there are laws that require businesses to take steps to protect the personal information of their customers and employees. This includes ensuring that information is destroyed when it is no longer needed. Failing to comply with these laws can result in significant fines or other penalties. 

Trade secrets are information that is not generally known and which gives a business a competitive advantage. Destroying data that contains trade secrets can help to prevent them from falling into the hands of competitors.

Read More: Protecting Electronic PII in Your Company

If sensitive or confidential information is released without authorization, it can damage an organization’s reputation and cause customers or clients to lose trust. Proper data destruction ensures that only authorized individuals have access to data.

Additionally, your employees play an important role when it comes to ensuring PII is properly destroyed before being discarded or recycled. Make sure your employees understand what type of information needs to be securely destroyed and provide them with clear instructions on how it should be done. Training your employees on proper disposal procedures such as using secure shredding bins and not leaving sensitive material unattended while it is being shredded or recycled, is critical.

Personal Identifiable Information (PII) must be treated with great care due to its sensitive nature and potential for misuse if it falls into the wrong hands. As a business owner or executive, it’s important that you have policies in place for securely destroying PII when it is no longer needed or required by law or regulation. 

By using a secure shredding service, destroying digital data, and training your employees on proper procedures for disposing of sensitive material; you can rest assured knowing that all of your organization’s sensitive information has been safely destroyed and disposed of in compliance with applicable laws and regulations governing the handling of PII data.

Editorial Team

The Tide Rock editorial team is a group of seasoned professionals with extensive expertise in electronics recycling. The team has worked closely with subject matter experts in personal identifying information mitigation, IT asset disposition, auditing and reporting, ensuring that all information is accurate and at the forefront of the industry. They specialize in catering to the unique electronic recycling needs of B2B businesses across various sectors, including financial services, healthcare, data centers, and legal. With a commitment to staying informed, the team consistently delivers top-notch insights and solutions for businesses seeking responsible and efficient electronics recycling practices.

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Tracey Haslam -  CEO
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