Born out of the first international treaty on securing data and privacy adopted in 1981, Data Privacy Day, observed every Jan. 28 in the U.S. and Canada, promotes education and awareness about the importance of keeping your personal information safe, online and off.

The theme for this year's Data Privacy Day, which is sponsored in the U.S. by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), is "Respecting Privacy, Safeguarding Data and Enabling Trust."

Taking privacy and data precautions is more important than ever in a globalized economy with a growing number of connected devices on the Internet of Things, according to the NCSA. It's also vital that businesses get serious about data and privacy safeguards, the organization noted, pointing to a recent survey that found that last year one out of four shoppers gave up on an online purchase because of security concerns.

Businesses Need Clear Safeguards

While Saturday, Jan. 28 is the actual day of observation for Data Privacy Day, a number of events were held earlier in the week, including a series of NCSA-sponsored talks and programs that were streamed live from Twitter's headquarters in San Francisco on Thursday. Now archived, those presentations can be viewed on the NCSA's Livestream channel.

Among the topics tackled for this year's Data Privacy Day program were Privacy and Connected Toys; Scams, ID Theft and Fraud; and, Privacy and the New President.

"As high-tech offerings like connected cars, smart thermostats and wearables become more prevalent, consumers are going to pay more attention to privacy," NCSA executive director Michael Kaiser said in a statement. "So, the clearer businesses can be about their data protection practices, along with the options they provide for consumers to safeguard their personal information, the better."

Taking Control 'Easier Said than Done'

Businesses that collect any kind of data about their customers should take a number of steps to protect that information and ensure customer trust, according to the NCSA. They should communicate clearly to customers how they collect and use information, and follow "reasonable security measures" to protect that data from unauthorized access.

"Don't count on your privacy policy as your only tool to educate consumers about your privacy practices," the agency advised. "Communicate clearly and often what privacy means to your organization and the steps you take to achieve and maintain consumer privacy and security."

Meanwhile, consumers should also be cautious about the kind of information they share . . . and with whom, the NCSA said. Among its privacy tips: remember that anything you post online "can last a lifetime," pay attention to your privacy and security settings on different Web services, think before you act and don't rely on passwords alone to secure your data. One added precaution recommended by most security experts is the use of two-factor authentication.

"Taking control of our personal data is often easier said than done," Michelle De Mooy, director of the Privacy & Data Project at the Center for Democracy and Technology, wrote in a blog post earlier this week. "It can be overwhelming to think about how much data we generate each day, whether at work or just living our lives, and sharing some of this information is a non-negotiable part of modern life."