With encryption of name and address - but disclosure of usage and billing - customers can have their cake and eat it too.
How to assure consumer privacy in energy deregulation has utilities, energy marketers and regulators in a dither.
With a deregulating market, utilities must share their consumer data with energy marketers in their territories. The more information energy marketers have about consumers, the better the products, prices and payment plans they can offer. This information, however, may include sensitive details about a consumer's finances and habits. Regulators have tried to strike a balance among conflicting interests - the consumer's right to privacy, the burden imposed on utilities to release customer information available, and the needs of marketers for real information to create viable offerings in a timely fashion.
The industry struggles to deal with this issue at a time when individual privacy has become a hot-button issue among consumers. When most people talk about privacy they usually mean one of three things:
* The right to control information about themselves,
* The right to have their own personal space, or
* The right to be left alone, both as consumers and individuals.
When individuals do consent to relinquish privacy, that consent should be meaningful - given voluntarily, without pressure and with full knowledge of the implications. Privacy has become an issue precisely because of the absence of meaningful consent in a large and growing number of consumer transactions.