New Smart Electric Meters Collect Data On Devices in Your Home

Experts: Smart grid poses privacy risks

Technologists already are worried about the security implications of linking nearly all elements of the U.S. power grid to the public Internet. Now, privacy experts are warning that the so-called “smart grid” efforts could usher in a new class of concerns, as utilities begin collecting more granular data about consumers’ daily power consumption.

“The modernization of the grid will increase the level of personal information detail available as well as the instances of collection, use and disclosure of personal information,” warns a report (PDF) jointly released Tuesday by the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner and the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF), a think tank made up of chief privacy officers, advocates and academics.

Smart grid technology — including new “smart meters” being attached to businesses and homes — is designed in part to provide consumers with real-time feedback on power consumption patterns and levels. But as these systems begin to come online, it remains unclear how utilities and partner companies will mine, share and use that new wealth of information, experts warn.

“Instead of measuring energy use at the end of each billing period, smart meters will provide this information at much shorter intervals,” the report notes. “Even if electricity use is not recorded minute by minute, or at the appliance level, information may be gleaned from ongoing monitoring of electricity consumption such as the approximate number of occupants, when they are present, as well as when they are awake or asleep. For many, this will resonate as a ‘sanctity of the home’ issue, where such intimate details of daily life should not be accessible.”

According to the study, examples of information that utilities and partner companies might be able to glean from more granular power consumption data include whether and how often exercise equipment is used; whether a house has an alarm system and how often it is activated; when occupants usually shower, and how often they wash their clothes.

Other privacy risks could result from the combination of information from two separate users of the smart grid: For example, roaming smart grid devices, such as electric vehicles recharging at a friend’s or acquaintance’s house, could create or reveal additional personal information.

At a recent smart grid conference in Madrid, FPF co-chair Jules Polonetsky showed how researchers have already mapped unique load patterns of different equipment, showing that for instance washing machines pull power in different ways than other devices (graphic below courtesy FPF).

In an interview with Security Fix, Polonestsky said some utilities have adopted the stance that existing regulations already prevent them from sharing customer data without prior authorization. But he noted that as power companies transition to the smart grid, those utilities are going to be collecting — and potentially retaining — orders of magnitude more data on their customers than ever before.

“Relatively speaking, [utilities] aren’t big marketing companies with big back end databases ready to handle the tidal wave of data that’s coming,” he said. “But we’re a little worried that without some serious planning now, there’s going to be quite a challenge in a couple of years when people start realizing that maybe should think about developing some solid data retention policies that address what’s going to be done with all of this data.”

Indeed, the report found that “comprehensive and consistent definitions of personally identifiable information do not generally exist in the utility industry. Privacy concerns arise when there is a possibility of discovering personal information, such as the personal habits, behaviors and lifestyles of individuals inside dwellings, and to use this information for secondary purposes, other than for the provision of electricity.”

Ontario is on track to have a smart meter installed at every home and business by the end of 2010. More than 8 million smart meters are used in the United States today, and more than 50 million more could be installed in at least two dozen states over the next five years, according to the Edison Foundation’s Institute for Electric Efficiency.

The report echoes some of the same concerns raised in a recent report (PDF) drafted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which warned that “distributed energy resources and smart meters will reveal information about residential consumers and activities within the house,” A NIST panel tasked with examining the cyber security aspects of the smart grid found “a lack of formal privacy policies, standards or procedures about information gathered and collected by entities involved in the smart grid,” and that comprehensive and consistent definitions of personally identifiable information do not generally exist in the utility industry.

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About Mississippi Coal
Welcome! It is an honor to have a moment of your day. We are in favor of all forms of energy. We care about the future of this great Nation and seek to expose the corruption behind the Kemper County CO2 capturing experimental Lignite coal Demonstration unit. Our Chief complaint is that the rate payers pay for it in their electric bills. The CO2 capturing does not produce electricity so therefore serves no purpose for the ratepayers. It is a money scam for Mississippi power and Southern Company. Mississippi is first in following the (United Nation's Agenda 21) Kyoto Protocols for the regulation of carbon dioxide, a gas we breathe out of our lungs, by forcing the people to pay for it through energy bills and taxes. Through the process of investigating the Kemper County Coal Plant issue, we feel criminal acts have been committed and that soon FCC violations will be added to the offenses. People are being lied to, deceived, or misled and therefore are fully cooperating with this Lignite experiment. "This blog or any content may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of political pathways, Constitutional infringements, democracy, science, and other issues. This constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is compiled and distributed without profit. This blog does not always agree with certain personal views or agendas of the published authors, but we will overlook such views many times in order to present facts, conclusions, and connections for knowledge or clarification. We hope you gain from this critical subject matter of the article/op-ed."

9 Responses to New Smart Electric Meters Collect Data On Devices in Your Home

  1. Anthony says:

    Just today, AEP in WV, unannounced I might add, arrived at my home and installed a “smart meter.” I was unaware of this information, although I questioned why I was the only customer receiving a new device. When questioned, AEP was illusive and dishonest about the device. I drafted a removal notice and I sent a local news agency a report and my info. I think the overall general population has no idea of this data.

    Thank you for the posted information, Overreach at it’s lowest levels. I’m dumbfounded…..WV

  2. I tried to buy a TV this month, so far no luck, all TV manufacturers , Toshiba , Sharp, Sony , LG all of them have become private/public partners with the UN/Government and as such are going down the tubes and are extremely unfair and one big lie. All TV’s are now energy efficient, achieved by lowering the sound to a point where you need to buy surround sound set ups with speakers in order to hear it. , where is the energy saving in that, it doesn’t make any sense?. For the first time in History we have no style or users choices, the communism is showing. All TV’s are big square black things with a stand that is not very stable, 6 children have been killed this new year alone, maybe more that have not been reported, in all the years of using a TV I have never heard of this, the TV users guide tells you now where you can set up this piece of garbage and where you can’t. So now you winde up paying over a 1000.00 for a TV you dont’ even like and had to add 2 or 3 hundred dollars for speakers if the room gets light the brightness goes down and if it gets more light the screen gets darker, like I need someone to adjust my screen for me, I like a bright picture thank you. I could go on and on about these lousy sets, two or three years ago you could get one without all of this but now you can’t. This is the garbage the American public is forced to buy and it also has computer access, you can go online through your TV, why you would want to I don’t know , one more way of tracking what you are doing, they even have a Sony TV with google in it, the biggest spies on the net. I really and truly resent not being able to pick out a TV I like, that matches my old fashioned house and that I can hear when I plug it in , they had no right to do this, its something everyone has and everyone uses so naturally we can’t have it, in two years Obama will be saying the Mulim UN invented theTV, its garbage so maybe they did. I can’t see TV manufacturers jumping to split their profits with the UN, who knows what they said to make them join up with our Gov. I can’t imagine what they expect to hear or see through all of the things we use, electricity is not free, we pay for it, how much does our Gov. use, where are they cutting corners? where is the huge UN cutting corners in all of those houses they build for themslelves with our money? This is just another part of agenda 21 and if they do this with homes and electricity and applioances we will go broke trying to keep up, that is the idea. Don’t let them do it, fight back any way you can, the more people that band together the less likely the little cowards will take anything that doesnt’ belong to them. Kick them ot the curb and slam the damn door.Toiday the TV and tomorrow your homes, , the farms are already being taken over, they want us out, they want us with only what they allow us ot have, they can kiss my grits.

    • You have done your homework well. Please continue to spread the word.

  3. Pingback: New Smart Electric Meters Collect Data On Devices in Your Home | a12iggymom's Blog

    • Thank you for what you are doing to save our country.

  4. Pingback: New Smart Electric Meters Collect Data On Devices in Your Home | Green Mountain Scribes

  5. Alan Sexton says:

    They have not implemented this yet, so they do not–at least yet, even attempt to coherently justify the surcharge, Mississippi. The company is Green Mountain Power (in VT) and they are currently in takeover talks with the states largest utility, Central VT Public Service. Perhaps this has something to do with it.

    Absolutely, this is Agenda 21and this must be stopped. To that end, I am attending an Agenda 21 primer in March.

    I will reblog a link to this post on my site, thank you, and also for the ongoing information.

  6. Alan Sexton says:

    Great information. The more I learn about smart grid and smart meters, the more opposed I become. Actually, after reading this it is now safe to say that I am diametrically opposed.

    My local utility has this technology in the works, with an opt-out for the meters but with a $10.00 / month surcharge for doing so. Beautiful.

    Thank you, Mississippi.

    • How do they justify the $10/mo charge? A meter reader should only need to come to read once every 6 months to verify you are on track with your call-in or post card self meter reading method.
      I am so happy you along with so many others are understanding the insurmountable problems affiliated with smart meters… and Agenda 21. Share the word so more and more can know the truth.

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