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Customer Posterior Protection

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Nevelyn Black's picture
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Nevelyn Black is an independent writer with a background in broadcast and a keen interest in renewable energy.  In the last few years, she transitioned from celebrity interviews and film shoots...

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  • May 5, 2022
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From public to private sectors, cyber security has become a priority. On March 21, 2022, the president issued a statement informing U.S. citizens that this is “a critical moment to accelerate our work to improve domestic cybersecurity and bolster our national resilience.” Over the past year, several private firms have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into cybersecurity.  Goldman Sachs invested $125 million as part of a new strategic venture with Fortress Information Security, a company responsible for securing 40 percent of the U.S. power grid.  

The growing need to protect data was seen earlier this week in Alabama. Riviera Utilities reported a data breach that exposed personal information such as customer names, Social Security numbers, driver’s license or state identification numbers, passport numbers, medical information, health insurance information, credit or debit card numbers, card expiration dates, and card CVVs.  Unfortunately, this is only one of many such incidents around the world. 

Utilities gather vast amounts of data on their customers’ energy use and behaviors and with proper consent, customers can have access to that information.  However, with all that data, a new concern emerges.  Agencies, companies and utilities are working even harder to protect customer data.

Utilities have already been accused of not making the digital transformation a priority.  According to the J.D. Power 2022 U.S. Utility Digital Experience Study, “many utilities are still resisting the forces of modernity by continuing to offer outdated websites and low adoption of mobile apps.”

With all the customer data gathered on a daily basis, the potential for personalization and improved customer engagement is great.  Making data accessible to customers would improve customer service and ultimately allow customers to monitor energy use and increase savings.  Each state can set guidelines for sharing consumer data.  If a customer wants to disclose data to a third party in Colorado, for instance, customers must complete a 2-page standardized consent form.  As of July 2018, some areas of the country, like Montana, have no policy in place that requires utilities to release energy use data to customers or third parties. 

In Colorado, the commission modernized its rules, stating, “As part of basic utility service, a utility shall provide to the customer’s standard customer data in electronic machine-readable form, without additional charge, to the customer or to any third party recipient to whom the customer has authorized disclosure of the customer’s customer data. Such access shall conform to nationally-recognized open standards and best practices.”   These policies or lack thereof, can slow energy efficiency projects, audits, and research studies.  Through no fault of its own, a utility's customer satisfaction scores could drop when information is withheld and delays to upgrades cost consumers money.

What is your utility doing to keep the personal details of your customers safe while navigating the guidelines for collecting and sharing information?

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