Search for and find personal data
Personal data is defined very broadly under the GDPR as any data that relates to an identified or identifiable natural person that is a resident of the European Union (EU).
Article 4 – Definitions
‘personal data’ means any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person (‘data subject’); an identifiable natural person is one who can be identified, directly or indirectly, in particular by reference to an identifier such as a name, an identification number, location data, an online identifier or to one or more factors specific to the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identity of that natural person;
This article demonstrates how to find personal data stored in SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business (which includes the sites for all Office 365 groups and Microsoft Teams).
Finding personal data subject to GDPR relies on using sensitive information types in Office 365. These define how the automated process recognizes specific information types such as health service numbers and credit card numbers. At this time these cannot be used to find data in Exchange mailboxes at rest. However, sensitive information types can be used with data loss prevention policies to find personal data in mail while in transit.
So, while you can’t currently use Content Search to find personal data at rest in Exchange Online mailboxes, you can use the sensitive information types you curate for GDPR to find and protect personal information as it is sent through email.
Use Content Search to find personal data
Microsoft recommends a three-stage approach to finding personal data in Office 365. The rest of this topic provides guidance for each of these stages.
1. Search for sensitive information types
Start by using sensitive information types to find personal data. Create a Content Search query for each sensitive information type. Run the query and analyze the results.If needed, add parameters to the query to reduce false positives:
If necessary, modify a sensitive information type to improve accuracy for your organization:
2. Use Keyword Query Language (KQL) to find additional personal data in your environment
To find data not included in sensitive information types, use the KQL query language to develop custom queries.
Test the results of these searches and adjust the KQL query string until you achieve the expected result.
3. Create new custom sensitive information types using the KQL queries
|After optimizing KQL queries to find target data, create new custom sensitive information types using these queries. You can then use these custom sensitive information types with Content Search, in DLP policies and other tools, and within other KQL queries.|
Coming soon — You'll be able to create and modify sensitive information types in a new user interface in the Security and Compliance Center. You can dynamically see matching results and tune sensitive information types to meet your needs.
Search for sensitive information types using Content Search
Begin searching for personal data by using the sensitive information types that are included with Office 365. These are listed in the Security and Compliance Center under Classification.
This topic includes a list of current sensitive information types that apply to citizens in the European Union. Use these as a starting point. Check Security and Compliance Center frequently for new additions that can help with GDPR compliance.
Also see this article: List of sensitive information types and what each one looks for.
Sensitive information types define how the automated process recognizes specific information types such as bank account numbers, health service numbers, and credit card numbers. Sensitive information types are also referred to as conditions. A sensitive information type is defined by a pattern that can be identified by a regular expression or a function. In addition, corroborative evidence such as keywords and checksums can be used to identify a sensitive information type. Confidence level and proximity are also used in the evaluation process.
At this time sensitive information types cannot be used to find data at rest in mailboxes.
Using Content Search with sensitive information types
Go to Content Search in the Security and Compliance Center
In the left pane of the Security & Compliance Center, click **Search & investigation** > **Content search**.
Create a new search item for each sensitive information type
Use the following syntax:
Scope the search to SharePoint (includes OneDrive for Business). Make sure the syntax is exact and there are no extra spaces or typos.
Review the results for each search
Look for these types of issues to determine if the query accuracy is on target:
Note: if you’re using Mozilla Firefox or Chrome, you might need to first download reports using Internet Explorer or Edge in order to install the required add-in.
Sensitive information types for EU citizen data
Start with these sensitive information types. Many more sensitive information types are coming soon for personal data in EU countries.
Belgium National Number
Credit Card Number
Croatia Identity Card Number
Croatia Personal Identification (OIB) Number
Czech National Identity Card Number
Denmark Personal Identification Number
EU Debit Card Number
Finland National ID
Finland Passport Number
France Driver's License Number
France National ID Card (CNI)
France Passport Number
France Social Security Number (INSEE)
German Driver’s License Number
Germany Identity Card Number
German Passport Number
Greece National ID Card
International Banking Account Number (IBAN)
Ireland Personal Public Service (PPS) Number
Italy’s Driver’s License Number
Netherlands Citizen’s Service (BSN) Number
Norway Identity Number
Poland Identity Card
Poland National ID (PESEL)
Portugal Citizen Card Number
Spain Social Security Number (SSN)
Sweden National ID
Sweden Passport Number
U.K. Driver’s License Number
U.K. Electoral Roll Number
U.K. National Health Service Number
U.K. National Insurance Number (NINO)
U.S./U.K. Passport Number
Add parameters to a sensitive information type query to hone the results
You can add these parameters to a sensitive information type query:
Count range — define the number of occurrences of sensitive information a document needs to contain before it’s included in the query results.
Confidence range — the level of confidence that the detected sensitive type is actually a match, such as 85 (85%).
- SensitiveType:”<type>|<count range>|<confidence range>”
SensitiveType:“Credit Card Number|5” (return only documents that contain exactly five credit card numbers)
SensitiveType:“Credit Card Number|*|85..” (confidence range is 85 percent or higher)
Note: “SensitiveType” is case sensitive, but the rest of the query is not.
You can also use properties, and operators to illustrate how you can refine your queries. For more information and examples, see Form a query to find sensitive data stored on sites.