Judith Schwartz, President, To the Point

As was discussed at length on multiple panels at ETS19 in Austin, data access and privacy are hot topics these days. Mark Zuckerberg is busy explaining FaceBook lapses to Congress while Tim “Apple” Cook and his team are turning the Company’s culture of secrecy into a competitive asset.

Apple knows privacy matters to customers and is using its long-standing commitment to protection of customer activities to its competitive advantage.  As you watch their clever new ad highlighting different ways people protect their privacy, keep in mind that people have varied concerns.  https://youtu.be/A_6uV9A12ok

Utilities have a long history of effectively protecting customer account information and are naturally inclined to safeguard the vast amount of customer usage data collected from grid modernization investments. New technology has enabled sophisticated analytics that can provide account-specific recommendations, identify broad trends and patterns, and allow more efficient operations to support customers.  So why aren’t utilities and their vendor partners bragging about their responsible behavior to customers when the new players nipping at their heels don’t enjoy the same track record?

A recent article from BuzzFeed talks about the new Apple campaign. .https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/katienotopoulos/apple-user-privacy-apple-card-tv-news  This paragraph jumped out in particular:

It’s true that Apple’s main business model is to sell phones and computers, not advertising. So it makes sense that it doesn’t exploit users’ personal data in the same way advertising-based businesses like Facebook and Google do. But the new services Apple announced today, by their very nature, will accumulate some of their users’ personal data — among other things, actions we choose, information we enter, things we purchase, and shows we watch. So today the company was all about reassuring people: Don’t worry, we’re still the good guy. Apple has long taken a protective stance on privacy, but it’s now using its approach to user data as a powerful marketing tool to sell more of its laptops, phones, news subscriptions, and entertainment services.

Now imagine if this paragraph were re-written from the utility perspective:

A utility’s main business model is to sell electricity, energy efficiency products and services, not advertising.  So it makes sense that utilities don’t exploit users’ personal data in the same way advertising-based businesses like Facebook and Google do. But the new services utilities are offering today, by their very nature, will accumulate some of their users’ personal data — among other things, actions we choose, when we use power, and how much. The DataGuard Voluntary Code of Conduct and logomark are all about reassuring people: Don’t worry, we’re still good guys. Utilities have long taken a protective stance on privacy, but will they use their approach to energy usage data as a powerful marketing tool to sell more energy efficiency products, solar, storage, and trusted energy advisory services?

The DataGuard (DG) initiative—which complements the Green Button technical standards—was designed by utility industry stakeholders to encourage responsible sharing of energy usage data and give consumers (and designated third parties) access to insights that informs decision-making. Given the number of organizations and research entities clamoring for access to this data and 50 different state commissions defining privacy policies, a common set of general guidelines can provide a straightforward way to be proactive and avoid the need for complex regulations.

Five key principles that come naturally to good actors

The DataGuard Voluntary Code of Conduct (VCC) includes principles related to aggregated and anonymized data and how companies should handle or consider these requests to prevent unauthorized distribution. Local rules and regulations always take precedence so companies who operate in states with variations can adopt DG without fear that participation will interfere with their jurisdiction’s requirements. Displaying the DG logomark provides a visual shortcut to reassure partners and customers. And just for the record, if a company adopts the DG VCC for energy usage data, they are already ahead of the game and in alignment with California’s new privacy laws and European GDPR regulations.

  1. Consumer Notice and Awareness:
    Customers should be given prior notice about privacy-related policies and practices.
  2. Customer Choice and Consent:
    Customers should have a degree of control over access to their own energy usage data.
  3. Customer Data Access and Participation:
    Customers should have access to their own energy usage data and have the ability to participate in its maintenance.
  4. Integrity and Security:
    Customer usage data should be as accurate as reasonably possible and secured against unauthorized access.
  5. Self-Enforcement Management and Redress:
    Enforcement mechanisms should be in place to ensure compliance with the foregoing principles.

So love your competitive advantage and brag a little (or a lot) especially with people who see this as a priority.  Adopt the DataGuard VCC and let your customers know you are one of the good guys.  Visit www.dataprivacyprogram.org for more information.

 

Here more from Judith on May 9th, during Zpryme’s Love your Data webinar