Sending Personally Identifiable Information (PII) via Email

By: Standss Contributor , Feb 13th, 2024

Email has become a standard mode of professional correspondence. Every day, countless individuals and businesses utilize it for sharing personally identifiable information (PII).

Such confidential emails with PII can be mistakenly sent to the wrong person.

Misdirected emails (sending emails to the wrong recipient) and mis-attached files continue to be a leading cause of compliance violations and accidental data loss for organizations.

According to Ponemon research, in 2022 alone, 65% of all data loss incidents occurred via email, and nearly two-thirds of organizations experienced data loss or exfiltration due to an employee mistake on email.

If your business sends personally identifiable information (PII) over email to customers, contractors, or other individuals, there are strict regulations you must follow to avoid costly fines.

What is personally identifiable information?

Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is any data that can be used to identify an individual directly or indirectly. Here’s a breakdown:

What qualifies as PII:

Direct identifiers: These uniquely identify an individual, like:

  • Social Security number
  • Driver’s license number
  • Passport number
  • Biometric data (fingerprint, facial recognition)
  • Full name (in certain contexts)



Indirect identifiers: These can be combined to identify someone, like:

  • Date of birth
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • IP address
  • Financial information
  • Medical records
  • Online browsing history
  • Social media profiles
  • Location data



Sensitivity of PII:

Sensitive PII: This carries a higher risk of harm if misused, like financial information, medical records, and biometric data. It requires stricter protection measures.

Non-sensitive PII: This is less likely to cause harm alone, like name, address, or date of birth, but can still be used for tracking or profiling individuals.

Why is PII important?

Protecting PII is crucial for individual privacy and security. Misuse of PII can lead to:

Identity theft: Criminals can use PII to impersonate someone and access their accounts or commit fraud.

Discrimination: PII can be used to target individuals based on sensitive characteristics like race, religion, or health status.

Financial loss: Data breaches can expose financial information and lead to losses.

Is it safe to send personal details via email?

In almost all cases, it is NOT safe to send personally identifiable information (PII) via email.

However, email is a widely used communication tool, and many people are comfortable using it.

Emails that include Personally Identifiable Information (PII) should be exclusively sent to those who have an official necessity to be aware of such information.

How can I email PII in a Compliant Way?

Email data loss is a significant threat to businesses and organizations should assess the ability of their current technologies to address employee negligence risks related to email.

SendGuard for Outlook is an email security solution that eliminates insider risk over email. It can  significantly help in emailing Personally Identifiable Information (PII) in a compliant way by providing an additional layer of security and oversight.

SendGuard checks the contents of outgoing emails and gets the sender to immediately confirm recipients, attachments and any sensitive content before emails are sent out.

Here’s how SendGuard can help:

Content Inspection

SendGuard checks the contents of outgoing emails in real-time. This includes scanning email bodies, attachments, and any embedded content for sensitive information such as PII.

Confirmation Process

Before an email is sent out, SendGuard prompts the sender to confirm recipients, attachments, and any sensitive content. This confirmation step ensures that the sender reviews and verifies the content of the email, reducing the risk of accidental disclosure of PII.

Recipient Verification

Review and confirm recipients before sending the email. This helps prevent emails containing PII from being sent to unintended recipients, reducing the risk of data breaches.

Attachment Review

SendGuard prompts the sender to review and confirm any attachments included in the email. This ensures that sensitive documents containing PII are only sent to authorized recipients.

Encrypt Outgoing Emails

Users can mark emails for encryption by choosing Yes or No on the confirmation screen. This feature is designed to work with any existing encryption software that you currently have.

Sensitive Content Detection

SendGuard can identify and flag sensitive content within emails, such as Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, or personal health information. This helps ensure compliance with data protection regulations by alerting users to the presence of PII before sending the email.

User Education and Awareness

By prompting users to review and confirm email contents before sending, SendGuard helps raise awareness about the importance of securely handling PII. This encourages users to be more vigilant when sending sensitive information via email.

Audit Trail

SendGuard maintains an audit trail of email confirmation actions, providing a record of when emails containing PII were reviewed and sent. This helps demonstrate compliance with internal policies and external regulations.

Talk to a Specialist

To learn more or to request a demo please contact sales@standss.com.

You can also download a free 30-day trial (no credit card needed) as well to evaluate the software.  

SendGuard for Outlook


Image Credit:

Image by DC Studio on Freepik

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