Privacy Issues

The truth about gross privacy violation via smart meter technology

Privacy, the control of knowledge about self, is a facet of personal liberty, moral autonomy, and democracy. It has been called “central to the attainment of individual goals under every theory” . Home is a refuge and the center of the family life where all details are, and must remain intimate details.

Smart meters record energy usage every few minutes and in many instances every few seconds or in real time – continuously.

This information is highly detailed revealing everything about the activity and life within the home including which appliances are in use at what times, for how long, and of what type, to how many people live within the home at what times and their habits and activities even finances, including if there is a newborn, and more.

Smart meter data is highly granular and the most revealing, providing information about the interior of the home and the lives of all residents in great detail. Anyone can request this information without a warrant from third parties with whom utilities share this data as many use them to handle customers’ billing and consumption information. This is because there is no law enforcement access to information held by third parties, and many of them are overseas.

There are legitimate concerns about unwarranted, gross privacy intrusion enabled by smart meter technology, and the “ownership” it grants utilities over the most private data of the home residents and their appliances, without informed consent.

All the above stated privacy concerns and the seriousness of the issue have been outlined and documented in the Submission to the Essential Services Commission by the Office of the Victorian Privacy Commissioner SBN-Office-of-the-Victorian-Privacy-Commissioner-S

An independent report produced by the Privacy and Cyber Crime Institute of Riverson University Applying_PIPEDA_to_the_Smart_Grid, tasked and funded by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and its Contributions Program, reveals that utility executives and senior management do not distinguish between the electricity regulatory framework and personal or privacy data protection framework. Moreover, the executives were convinced that the information transmitted by smart meters is not personal information. Of even greater concern was that these executives were not familiar with their company’s privacy policy and saw no need for privacy policy changes due to the introduction of smart meter technology.

How easy it is to hack smart meters and what are utilities doing with intrusively obtained private information about households is partly explained in this video called Smart Hacking for Privacy. In the 49th minute of the video, the executive of a German power company, amongst other things, discloses the business model of smart meters largely resting on commission payments obtained from selling this private information to retailers and derived technologies:

Smart Hacking for Privacy

Read more about Privacy and the Modern Grid in this edition of the Harvard Journal of Law & Technology.

Ex-fraud investigator gives his police point of view on privacy invasion by smart meters

3 Responses to Privacy Issues

  1. Steve Huppert says:

    For all readers – smart grid is an issue and as an admission of this fact, the Institute of Engineers Australia is running a seminar/lecture titled “Power System and Smart Grid Cyber Security” in Melbourne on 17 Sept.
    “The trend of integrating power systems with advanced computer and communication technologies has introduced serious cyber security concerns, especially in a smart grid environment where the cyber system is no longer regarded as 100% reliable to support power system communications and control as before.

    Power system security therefore extends to potential cyber security domain in the smart grid era. Risks from the cyber system as well as non-conventional physical power system contingencies start to contributing to the overall grid security. This will be particularity important considering the potential risks from targeted attacks on vulnerable system components which may bring done the overall system.” Speaker: Professor Z.Y. Dong

  2. Anonymous says:

    It would not be hard to do, develop software to determine by usage of power and time profile, determine the probabilities of no one in attendance of a particular residence and particular times of least possible detection , a crooked operator then rings his mates with the van to go to a particular house and rob it blind. how easy is that. Also the supplier can cut the power of from a given residence anytime for any excuse

    • Weekendor says:

      Do we think it’s fair to keep investing in the transmission of power in it’s current form? Or should it be user pays? You could easily manipulate some timers to mimic your energy habits. Use it to your benefit, by viewing how and when you use power to reduce your cost of living. Beat them at their own game.

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