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Personal data is information that relates to an identified or identifiable individual. That is the reason, personal data is generally known as PII – Personally Identifiable Information. Both the terms are popular – PII is used by ISO whereas Personal data is used in many regulations but mostly popularised by GDPR.

An individual could be identified from a simple information like name or a number or the information could be as complex as an IP address or a cookie identifier, or location tracking. It is worthwhile to note that an information can be classified as Personal data even when other information is required to be combined in order to identify an individual.

For example, Aadhar number is sufficient to identify an individual directly whereas a name cannot. However, a name with an address can possibly identify the individual.


PII is defined in ISO 29100:2011 as –

Any information that (a) can be used to identify the PII principal to whom such information relates, or (b) is or might be directly or indirectly linked to a PII principal.

Note: To determine whether a PII principal is identifiable, account should be taken of all the means which can reasonably be used by the privacy stakeholder holding the data, or by any other party, to identify that natural person.


GDPR defines Personal data as below.

‘personal data’ means any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person (‘data subject’); an identifiable natural person is one who can be identified, directly or indirectly, in particular by reference to an identifier such as a name, an identification number, location data, an online identifier or to one or more factors specific to the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identity of that natural person;

Examples of personal data:


·         A name and surname ·         A home address ·         An identification card number
·         An email address such as name.surname@company.com
·         An internet protocol (IP) address ·         The advertising identifier of your phone
·         Data held by a hospital or doctor, which could be a symbol that uniquely identifies a person
·         A cookie id ·         Ethnicity of origin/ caste ·         Religion ·         Sexual orientation


Examples of data not considered personal data:

  • A company registration number (does not relate to an individual)
  • An email address such as info@company.com (does not relate to an individual)
  • Anonymized data


Anonymization is a data processing technique that removes or modifies personally identifiable information; it results in anonymized data that cannot be associated with any one individual. The anonymized data is typically used for analysis and research purpose.