Wednesday, 17 Jul 2024

Protecting Personal Information: A Guide for Business

Most companies store sensitive personal information that identifies customers or employees. This information is crucial for business operations, but if it falls into the wrong hands, it can lead to fraud and identity theft. Safeguarding personal information is essential to maintain trust and protect your business.

Take Stock: Know What Personal Information You Have

To start, you need to assess what personal information you have and where it is stored. Inventory all your devices and locations where data might be stored. Identify the sources of personal information and how it is received, collected, and stored. Pay attention to sensitive data like Social Security numbers and credit card information.

Scale Down: Keep Only What You Need

Only collect and keep personal information that is necessary for your business. Avoid storing unnecessary data, especially sensitive information like Social Security numbers. Limit access to data and follow the “principle of least privilege” where employees only have access to the resources they need for their jobs. Develop a records retention policy to determine how long to keep information and how to dispose of it securely.

Lock It: Protect Your Information

Protecting personal information involves physical and electronic security measures. Physically secure paper documents and limit access to employees who need them. Use firewalls, encryption, and authentication methods to secure your computer network and sensitive data. Provide employee training on security practices and create a culture of security within your organization. Ensure that your contractors and service providers have proper security measures in place.

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Pitch It: Dispose of Information Properly

Dispose of personal information securely to prevent unauthorized access. Implement reasonable and appropriate information disposal practices. Use shredders for paper records and wipe utility programs for old computers and storage devices. Make sure employees working from home follow the same procedures for disposing of sensitive documents and devices.

Plan Ahead: Respond to Security Incidents

Have a plan in place to respond to security incidents. Designate a senior staff member to coordinate and implement the response plan. Disconnect compromised computers from the network, investigate incidents, and take steps to close vulnerabilities. Determine whom to notify, both inside and outside your organization, in the event of a breach.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How long should I keep personal information?
A: Keep personal information only as long as necessary for your business. Develop a records retention policy to determine how long to keep information securely.

Q: How can I protect sensitive data on digital copiers?
A: Involve your IT staff when purchasing copiers and consider data security features like encryption and overwriting. Securely dispose of copiers or remove and destroy the hard drive.

Q: What should employees do if they suspect a security breach?
A: Employees should notify their superiors immediately if they suspect a security breach. Prompt reporting can help mitigate the impact of the breach.


Protecting personal information is crucial for businesses to maintain trust and prevent fraud. By following the principles of taking stock, scaling down, locking it, pitching it, and planning ahead, businesses can safeguard personal information and reduce the risk of security breaches. Stay informed, implement security practices, and continuously update your policies to adapt to changing threats. For more information on data security, visit Eireview.

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