UW Privacy Office

Personal Data, Data Classifications, and Structures

Last updated on February 9, 2023



Data are essential to the UW’s mission. This overview describes the way personal data are defined, classified, and organized at the University of Washington, providing clarity about the types of data and operations performed on data that have the potential to impact the well-being of the individuals the UW serves. For additional privacy-related and personal data terminology, please refer to the Glossary of Privacy Terms webpage.

Personal data

At the UW, personal data refers to any records or information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person, including, but not limited to:

  • Name.
  • Identification number.
  • Location data.
  • Online identifiers.
  • Factor(s) specific to physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural, or social identity or characteristics.
  • Factors identified as personally identifiable data, personally identifiable information, or a similar term under law or regulation.

Personal data is much broader than the historical term personally identifiable information.

Data classifications

The UW Privacy Office oversees and manages the data classification structure and process to support UW units in meeting their ethical and legal responsibilities. These data categories and the data classification process are intended to help UW units clarify and prioritize the minimum privacy and information security protections.

Data taxonomies

A data taxonomy is an organized structure for grouping data into categories and subcategories, providing a clear picture of the types of data processed by an organization and introducing common terminology and definitions.

Data inventory taxonomy

These are the data taxonomies for defining the data subjects, elements, and processing purpose(s) used in the UW’s data inventory within the TrustArc Privacy Management Platform.

Appropriate collection and use taxonomy

The data taxonomy for the Appropriate Collection and Use of Demographic Data of Job Applicants and UW Personnel are located within Appendix A of the policy.

High-risk data processing

The UW identifies categories of data processing — operations taken on personal data — that have the potential to impact the well-being of the individuals we serve. These operations can include collecting and storing sensitive information or information about vulnerable populations, as well as more complex data processing operations, such as predictive or prescriptive analytics. A full list of the UW’s high-risk data processing categories and examples is available on our High-Risk Data Processing webpage.