Wias Issa
September 11, 2023
Authentication Cryptography Data Security Encryption Privacy

Understanding Sensitive Data Types – A Guide to Data Classification and Privacy


In today’s data-centric landscape, the concept of “sensitive data” undergoes diverse interpretations and classifications across industries. Given the distinctive requirements and risk parameters in different sectors, what stands as sensitive data in one industry might be seen as non-critical in another. However, establishing a strong foundation in understanding the universal categories of data generally regarded as sensitive can significantly bolster any company’s data protection strategy.

In this post, we will delve deep into a comprehensive array of data types frequently classified as sensitive, embracing the fluidity in the sensitivity and relevance of these data types across different industries and within individual businesses. We will also take a focused look at the fintech sector towards the end of this discussion, offering a perspective on the data types that hold paramount importance in the financial services landscape.

The Fluid Nature of Sensitive Data Classification

Before we delve into the exhaustive list of data types regarded as sensitive by different entities, it is pertinent to emphasize that the level of sensitivity attached to each data type can vary. For example, while a healthcare provider might prioritize the protection of personal health records, a financial institution could view credit information as most critical.

Sensitive Data Types: A Working List

Various industries and customers categorize a multitude of data types as sensitive, each having its own degree of relevance. Let’s dissect this list to gain a deeper understanding of sensitive data classifications:

Personal Identification Information

  • First Name, Last Name, Full Name, Username
  • Passport Number, ID Number
  • Age, Age Range, Birth details

Contact Information

  • Email Address, Physical Address, Telephone Number
  • IP address, MAC address, Device identifier, Browser Fingerprint

Family Details

  • Mother’s Maiden Name
  • Family Structure, Siblings, Offspring
  • Marriages, Divorces, Relationships

Financial Details

  • Credit Records, Credit Worthiness, Credit Standing, Credit Capacity
  • Bank Account, Credit Card Number
  • Purchases, Sales, Transactions, Taxes

Biometric and Health Records

  • Biometric Data (including fingerprints, facial recognition)
  • Physical and Mental Health records
  • Blood Type, DNA code

Communication Logs

  • Emails, Voicemails, Telephone Recordings, Call Logs, Call Recordings
  • Chat Conversations, Freeform Text Fields

Browsing and Usage Behavior

  • Browsing Behavior, Links clicked
  • Geographic data, GPS Coordinate, Room Number

Preferences and Lifestyle

  • Opinions, Interests, Likes, Dislikes
  • Music preferences, Favorite Foods
  • Cars owned, Houses, Apartments

Employment Details

  • Job Titles, Salary, Work History, Employee Files
  • Evaluations, References, Interviews

Personal Traits

  • Physical Traits including height, weight, skin tone, hair color
  • Demeanor, Attitude
  • Tattoos, Piercings

Context-Dependent Sensitivity

In addition to the above, several data types are exceptionally context-dependent, and their sensitivity can markedly change based on specific circumstances, including:

  • National origin, Ethnic origin, Race
  • Religion, Philosophical beliefs, Political Affiliation
  • Gender identity, Sexual Preferences, Sexual History

Industry-Specific Sensitivities

Taking a step further, we observe that different industries have distinct focal points when it comes to data sensitivity. In the fintech sector, the emphasis might heavily lean on securing financial and transactional data. Contrastingly, the healthcare sector prioritizes safeguarding detailed health records and biometric data.

Fintech Industry

  • Credit Worthiness, Credit Standing
  • Loan Records, Bank Account details

Healthcare Sector

  • Personal Health History, Family Health History
  • Prescriptions, Drugs test results

Ensuring Comprehensive Protection

As we pivot towards a conclusion, it is critical for businesses to scrutinize this extensive list and identify which data types are most pertinent to their operations. Protecting sensitive data not only fosters trust with clients but also ensures regulatory compliance.

Companies need to undertake a thorough risk assessment to identify and protect the sensitive data types pertinent to their industry. This process entails recognizing the varied landscape of data sensitivity, wherein a data type like email addresses might be considered sensitive by one business and not by another.


Understanding the broad spectrum of data types perceived as sensitive across various industries is a formidable step towards crafting a fortified data protection strategy. By harmoniously balancing regulatory requisites with industry-specific needs, a business can foster a safe and trust-worthy environment for its clientele.

As industries continue to evolve, the notion of what constitutes “sensitive data” will undeniably undergo transformations. Therefore, maintaining a dynamic approach to data protection, characterized by ongoing assessments and adaptations, will remain a pivotal aspect of business operations.

We encourage businesses to continually revisit this comprehensive list, adapting their strategies to safeguard the data that is most pertinent and sensitive in their respective fields, thus fostering a culture of safety and trust. It is not only a matter of regulatory compliance but also a robust strategy for safeguarding the organization’s reputation and the client’s trust. It is an endeavor where diligence meets prudence, charting a path of security in the intricate world of data.

P.S.: A Closer Look at Sensitive Data in the Fintech Industry

In the complex landscape of the fintech industry, a deep understanding of what encompasses sensitive data is of paramount importance. Drawing from the master list, let’s hone in on the data types that financial services customers frequently regard as sensitive:

Personal and Financial Details

  • Bank Account and Credit Card Details: Protecting bank account numbers, credit card numbers, and associated details is fundamental in fintech. Any leakage of this information could potentially lead to financial fraud.
  • Credit Records: Details encompassing creditworthiness, standing, and capacity can be utilized to make pivotal financial decisions, thus necessitating stringent protection.
  • Loan Records: Information pertaining to loans, including the loan amount, tenure, and repayment history, are critical data points in the financial services sphere.

Identification Data

  • Personal Identification Information: Full name, ID number, and passport number are often used for identity verification processes and hence are viewed as sensitive data.
  • Contact Details: Email addresses and physical addresses are central to customer communication, making their protection vital to safeguarding customer privacy.

Transaction Details

  • Transaction History: Records of transactions including purchases, sales, and transfers, form a detailed view of a customer’s financial behavior, demanding careful handling.
  • Income and Salary Details: Information on a customer’s income bracket and salary details can be seen as sensitive, given that it can be used for profiling and targeted services.

Understanding and safeguarding these data points remain a top priority in the fintech industry, given the potentially severe repercussions of data breaches in this sector. By being conscious of the sensitivities surrounding these data types, fintech firms can work to ensure robust security measures are in place, maintaining not just regulatory compliance but fostering trust and reliability with their customer base.

For businesses operating in the fintech space, it is advised to always stay abreast with the industry standards and regulatory guidelines, adapting and evolving their data protection strategies accordingly. The task ahead is clear: foster an environment that respects the privacy and security of each customer’s sensitive data while navigating the dynamic and ever-evolving fintech landscape. To keep up with our research and cryptography content, make sure to subscribe to our blog in the page footer below.

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