January 28 is World Privacy Day, recognized by the United States and 50 other countries as a day to focus on personal and business data privacy awareness and the law. 

In today's economy, personal information is currency. Treat it like money. Our homes and our businesses require vigilance when it comes to handling personal information. This includes not just our own data, but the personal information of our co-workers and employees, as well as that belonging to our business relationships, vendors, and customers. 

In just the past few years, there has been a proliferation of laws governing the privacy of personal data on each of these levels. What was formerly only applicable to legal, medical, or educational records has quickly become applicable to virtually all consumer data. 

Three basic steps to protection and legal compliance of protected data:

Step 1: Take control of the data in your possession. Know what personal data you have. Take an inventory of home and business activities, including devices that comprise "the internet of things." Learn what personal information about yourself or others is in your control. Understand whose it is, where it is, and who has access to it. Then lock it down. 

Step 2: Commit to data minimization.  Downsize your data footprint. This includes separating data you currently need to run your life and/or business activities, and off-lining old data that can either be permanently destroyed or returned to its owner. Restrict who has access to all of it. Be careful when creating or accepting new personal data for yourself or for business affiliates and customers. Collect and store only what you need, and schedule when you can get rid of it.

Step 3: Comply with new privacy laws.  Obtain written permissions for your use, disclosure, alteration, and destruction. Understand who has rights over the data in your possession, and how you can legally possess, transmit, share, and keep data safe. If you have been breached, know your responsibilities to notify those whose data was compromised on your watch, and how to respond to enforcement agencies. 

To learn more about personal and business privacy, speak with a privacy specialist.