Yes. Personally Identifiable Information. It’s a big deal. Look, if you want to be part of society, you’ll have to identify yourself from time to time. That is a burden we all bear. Now, what we’d like you to remember, however is that your identity is a thing that can be stolen, and which you should protect on a daily basis. How? We’re going to tell you.
Choosing the time to identify yourself
…is important. You should always consider what the repercussions of identifying yourself might be. Is the person you’re revealing your personal info to reliable? Do they have a legitimate need for your information, or might they be after it for some other reason? Assuming that people have no malice in mind will likely get you in trouble sooner or later – and probably sooner. So when should you identify yourself?
The main rule here is that you identify yourself when you have a need to do so, not when someone else wants you to. If you need to identify yourself in order to get at your money in the bank, you should do that. They require identification so that nobody steals your dough. Fair enough. if the police want to know who you are so that they know you’re not a burglar in your own home, you’d want to do that. However, if a salesman wants you to give him your SSN so that they can put you in their marketing database… well. You know what to do. Run, fool… run!
Anyway. If you decide that you have something to gain from identifying yourself, and that it is in your best interest to do so, then go ahead. When in doubt, however… just don’t.
Choosing who gets your PII
This is all about trust, and is weaved into the last paragraph as well. Trusted institutions that you have a legitimate relationships to are probably safe, while a random marketer is not. A policeman who identifies himself and has a legitimate need to know who you are is probably safe, while the guy from mall security is not – we’ll get back to that one, though.
Asking for PII from someone is not illegal. Demanding PII from someone, however, is a whole different ball game, especially if that demand is backed by a threat of some kind – a security officer might demand you identify yourself before letting you leave, for example, but that doesn’t mean you should give it to them. Instead, you should contact the police and let them decide what the proper course of action is.
Here’s the main rule: If you trust them, let’em have it. If not, bar all access.
What to do if you’re facing a demand for PII
This happens more often than you’d think. It’s important to keep in mind that in most countries, only an extremely limited number of persons or institutions can demand your personally identifiable information, and those are usually under strict supervision from the government.
Let’s run a scenario. A security guard wants to see your ID in order to issue you a ticket for not having paid your way on a train. Do you give it to him, or her?
Short answer is no. You can identify yourself by name and address, plus a birth date, which will be more than enough to facilitate any claims the company has against you. If the security guard or officer threatens you with the police, that is fine – let them. Usually, the police will have more important things to do than come verify your information for a minor problem. If they do show up, they’ll know you were in the right, and whoever made you wait will be in trouble.
Now, you can choose to show your full picture ID to the person who demands it. In that case, you should be very careful about what they record. Make sure that they only take down information that they have a legitimate use for. Your NATID or SSN are not in that pile.
Taking a stand against someone who seems to be in the right is hard. That doesn’t mean you should take the easy way out – that can get you in a lot of trouble later.
PII is valuable, and there are a lot of people out there who want to steal yours. Be sure that your PII is safe, and that it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
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