What is sensitive personal data?

With information becoming an increasingly valuable currency and criminals constantly looking for new ways to steal data, safeguarding personal details has become an absolute necessity for businesses. Whether your company deals with confidential files, secure documents or sensitive hard drives, ensuring secure destruction is paramount to protecting your employees, customers and stakeholders – as well as your business. But what is sensitive personal data and how can you ensure it's protected?

In this blog post, we take a closer look at its definition and what your employees should look out for, as well as the pivotal role that professional shredding companies and industrial shredders play in maintaining privacy and security.

What are examples of sensitive personal data?

Sensitive personal data comprises information that, if exposed, could lead to severe consequences such as identity theft, fraud or other malicious activities. This category includes, but also extends beyond:

●      Name

●      Addresses

●      Financial records

●      Medical histories

●      Biometric data

It’s important to stress that the precise definition and scope of “personal data” and nuances of regulations can vary across the world, and businesses should make sure they know exactly what is covered by laws in their specific locations. For example, in jurisdictions governed by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), factors such as racial or ethnic background, political opinions, religious beliefs, and more, are also included.

To ensure that your business adheres to the applicable laws and maintains data privacy, seeking advice from legal experts is crucial. As a business, it's imperative to stay informed about the specific requirements in your region and take appropriate steps to comply with them. Using a professional secure data destruction service such as Shred-it can also help. Keeping on top of new and evolving regulation is part of our jobs, so we can guarantee regulatory compliance with our destruction services. In fact, with more than 30 years of experience, Shred-it is one of the largest document destruction providers globally with more than 500,000 customers, 5,000 team members and more than 2,000 trucks around the world. Our website features a resource centre with helpful tips, fact sheets and more on data protection.

Destruction of sensitive personal data – Can I just do it myself?

The simple answer is: don’t risk it.

While standard commercial shredders offer a decent level of document destruction, maybe even one that is satisfactory to the untrained eye, industrial grade shredders – such as the ones used by Shred-it – are able to completely destroy secure files, cross-cutting them to ensure they can never be reused or reassembled.

This is why you should avoid risk by choosing professional shredding services:

●      Efficiency: Shredding is not a simple job, and the time required for employees to gather, sort and destroy sensitive documents is often underestimated.

●      Human error: Breaches caused by human error accounted for a staggering 21% of incidents in 2022.1 Relying on employees to consistently follow a secure document management process can be risky. Also, it also takes an experienced shredding professional to know exactly what to look out for – your employees may believe that something is destroyed without realising there is still the potential for it to be used.

●      Security: Shredding documents in the office means that papers are often left waiting in accessible places, with the risk for them to be lost or stolen. Moreover, strip shredding, which is used by many office shredders, is unreliable and can lead to document reconstruction.

In stark contrast, opting for a professional document shredding service entails the secure storing and then removal of documents from your premises for secure destruction using industrial-grade equipment. These shredders can handle substantial volumes of materials, ranging from stacks of paper documents to hard drives and electronic devices. Unlike their commercial counterparts, industrial shredders incorporate advanced features that render the reconstruction of shredded materials virtually impossible.

Prioritising personal data protection

With data thieves constantly evolving their techniques2 – and consequences for non-compliance becoming more severe – safeguarding sensitive personal data isn't just an option but a legal obligation in both the UK and EU. To effectively navigate this landscape, businesses must familiarise themselves with the intricate and nuanced definitions of sensitive data as dictated by local regulations. Seeking guidance from legal experts or experienced data destruction firms can help ensure compliance and mitigate potential risks.

When it comes to the secure destruction of sensitive data, a professional provider using industrial grade shredders is the ultimate solution. This not only ensures the irreversible destruction of documents but also shows a commitment to data privacy and security. By investing in industrial shredding services, businesses demonstrate their dedication to maintaining the integrity of sensitive information, thereby safeguarding both their reputation and their customers' trust.

Shred-it offers one-off or periodic destruction of sensitive data from paper, hard drives and other media. We are one of the largest document destruction providers in the world with more than 500,000 customers, 5,000 team members and a fleet of over 2,000 trucks globally. Click here to see our complete range of services and choose the best one for you.



IBM Security – Cost of a Data Breach Report 2022


The Conversation - International ransomware gangs are evolving their techniques - 2023