SkyVision Solutions has just released a new report entitled, “A Perspective on How Smart Meters Invade Individual Privacy.”
The newly released 64-page report is likely the most comprehensive document of its kind to date. Through a step-by-step logical approach, it is demonstrated that the collection of incremental energy-related data for residential electric customers using smart meters represents an unreasonable invasion of privacy and, for applicable jurisdictions, constitutes an unreasonable search in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Key points made in the newly released document on smart meter privacy invasions include the following:
- Smart meter data, consisting of granular energy usage measurements, can be used by others either maliciously or inadvertently using existing or developing technology in an unauthorized fashion to infer types of activities or occupancies of a home for specific periods of time. It is also possible that such information can be sought for legal proceedings as evidence to prove or disprove certain propositions. For example, were you home on the night in question for the alleged crime?
- When Utilities state that the “privacy” of consumer smart meter data is protected, they are conflating the terms privacy and confidentiality. What Utilities can legitimately say is that they will attempt to keep your personal and private information “confidential” to the extent that their systems, programs, and the laws allow. Once someone else, even the Utility, has your private and personal information, it is no longer private. If a consumer allows the Utility to collect granular data that can reveal activities or occupancy of the home, then that consumer has lost a considerable degree of privacy.
- Insufficient oversight of smart metering implementation has led to unprecedented invasions of consumer privacy. Examples of insufficient oversight and lack of due diligence on the part of government officials and the Utilities include:
- Utilities collect massive amounts of data not necessary for billing purposes simply because “they can” and do so without regard to consumer privacy interests;
- Current privacy laws in the United States are fragmented and vague and rarely address consumer energy usage for smart meter technology;
- With regard to informing consumers of smart grid risk-related information, Utilities and manufacturers have no incentive to inform consumers of these risks since such action could possibly create a consumer backlash against the deployment of the smart grid technologies. Risk-related information is being deliberately suppressed by the smart grid industry, and the public is being provided misinformation which would indicate that there are no additional privacy risks related to smart meters as compared to the old analog meters;
- Contrary to Utility assurances, most currently available smart meters have not been designed with a strong security architecture and lack important security features, including event logging and forensics capabilities which are needed to detect and analyze attacks. The consumer’s data are thus exposed to misuse by both authorized and unauthorized users of the data.
- Only one data point measured per month of energy usage in kWh (delivered) is necessary for customers with a fixed rate pricing program, for the limited business purpose of calculating a monthly bill. Due to increased financial, privacy, physical and data security, and even reputational risks involved with collecting incremental, granular, fine-grained, high-frequency type of energy usage information, there is no business relationship basis for current smart grid technologies to be imposed upon consumers without their consent.
- Case law supports the assertion that consumers have a reasonable expectation for privacy of granular energy usage data and that this expectation should objectively be viewed by society as reasonable. Upon recognition of these preserved privacy interests, it becomes necessary that informed consent be obtained before a Utility can collect incremental energy usage data from the consumer.
The deployment of smart meters and other smart grid technologies have mainly benefited the utility industry and its vendors. In their present form, the smart grid and smart meters offer few or no benefits to consumers, but pose significant risks and costs to them and society.
In order to minimize privacy and data security risks, consumers at a minimum need the ability to refuse smart meter installations on a cost-free basis. This is only fair in order to properly acknowledge the needs and rights of the consumer.
Recognizing that the ability for individual consumers to refuse smart meter installations is only a partial solution, what is also urgently needed is a complete moratorium on the deployment of digital smart meters and associated smart grid components. This moratorium would allow time for an objective reassessment (by all relevant stakeholders) of what is actually necessary to modernize the electrical grid system.
Note: This article is considered superseded by one posted in August 2014: Updated Report on How Smart Meters Invade Privacy.
Remember that the type of analysis pictured above was performed without any special software or inclusion of the “reactive power” parameter also measured by Naperville, Illinois smart meters. With a bit more data and analysis, one might arrive at something even more detailed like the picture shown below….