by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions
In June 2011, a resolution regarding smart meters was issued by the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD). The Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD) is a forum of US and EU consumer organizations which develops and agrees on joint consumer policy recommendations to the US government and European Union to promote the consumer interest in EU and US policy making.
Due to “grave concerns” with smart meters, here is the formal guidance that was provided to the US government and utility operators as part of the TACD resolution: “Forbid utilities from installing smart meters without consumers’ informed consent.”
TACD Resolution on Smart Meters (2011)
The full name for the TACD resolution on smart meters is “Resolution on Privacy and Security Related to Smart Meters.” Here are a few excerpts from that document:
“TACD members … have grave concerns related to the privacy, data protection and security implications of smart meters. The dramatic increase in the granularity of data available and frequency of collection of household energy consumption means that the smallest detail of household life can be revealed, with potential risks for consumers including identity theft, augmenting private and data broker consumer profiles (US), real-time surveillance, and unwanted publicity. In addition to these smart meter privacy risks there may also be security risks — e.g., software or firmware, programming or installation, interoperability conflicts with other smart-grid-enabled technologies, and the threat of cyber attack.”
“TACD resolves that the EU and US government should:
1. Enact or revise data protection and privacy legislation to:
a. Forbid utilities from installing smart meters without consumers’ informed consent;
b. Prohibit use of utility consumer consumption data for marketing, selling, sharing, or reuse without the customer’s specific and unambiguous consent.”
“TACD resolves that EU and US smart meter operators should:
1. Integrate privacy and security by design. This means that the default settings and usability features for smart meters should ensure maximum privacy for users’ energy consumption data.”
Background Information (from the TACD Resolution)
The “scale of data storage and collection [by smart meters] is vulnerable to both commercial and criminal interests – for example consumer profiling and targeting for marketing purposes, identity theft, real-time surveillance, targeted home invasions or unwanted publicity or embarrassment.”
“It is essential that privacy risks be addressed as a matter of urgency as millions of consumers already have smart meters.”
“Smart meter data collection should be limited to data that is consumer-consumption-specific, operational and critical to utilities in providing the correct amount of electricity to end users. Smart meter data reporting should be based on the use and purpose of the data collection. Operational data may be stripped of identifying information and communicated securely and more frequently, while consumer data may be communicated less frequently, but more securely than operational data.”
TACD Resolution on the Internet of Things (2012)
The information communicated in the TACD resolution of smart meters was reinforced in a subsequent resolution in 2012 on the “Internet of Things.” From that document:
“The next evolution of the Internet will support generalised connectivity of objects, also known as the Internet of Things (IoT). This next phase of the Internet envisions billions of interconnected devices embedded or attached to objects that consumers use daily. The IoT can include any consumer product: electrical appliances, packaging information on food products, smart meters and clothes tags.”
“The IoT will have benefits for consumers, but there are also concerns in terms of privacy and data protection, information security and physical safety. … The IoT infrastructure is pervasive because it will rely on the existing wireless Internet communication technology and established consumer products. Given that objects will communicate with each other in the background without the consumer’s knowledge, the risks to privacy and protection of personal data increase significantly.”
“In addition, many components in an IoT system will be used in close proximity to each other and radio devices may share frequency bands, raising concerns about the health effects of electromagnetic fields EMF exposure.”
“The recommendations in these resolutions should be considered by the EU and US governments and by the relevant businesses as the IoT is developed:
1. Resolution on Privacy and Security Related to Smart Meters
2. Resolution on Internet Security
3. Resolution on Radio-Frequency Identification
4. Charter of Consumer Rights in a Digital World”
Conclusions and Analysis
In contrast to everything you have just read, utility operators and the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC) industry propaganda organization behave (and pretend) as if your privacy is not even an issue with smart meters. Well, it is, and as stated above, it is a “matter of urgency” that privacy risks be properly addressed. To do this, utilities must not only raise the awareness of consumers to the true risks as stated in the TACD resolutions; utilities must obtain informed consent prior to installation of a smart meter on your home.
Let’s further reflect on our current predicament as consumers. Here we find ourselves three to four years after the TACD resolutions were issued expressing “grave concerns” regarding smart meters and the IoT. Yet consumers are still in a position of having to beg and plead with utilities to allow them to refuse smart meters without a penalty fee. In fact the situation should be just the opposite. Utilities should be the ones in the position of having to acquire our informed and unambiguous consent prior to mounting these risky and invasive devices on our homes.
The TACD resolutions mentioned above represent the collective positions of over 75 consumer-related member organizations. It is surely a form of negligence to be informed of grave concerns and serious privacy issues related to smart meters and then for the government and utilities to do nothing about that situation.
It was a goal for this article to provide you with additional tools (useful reference information) necessary for correcting the injustice that has been perpetrated against consumers regarding the deployment of smart meters.
Source Material for this Article