Calif. extends landmark Smart Grid privacy policy to cover gas usage

Calif. extends landmark Smart Grid privacy policy to cover gas usage

Summary: Data collected by natural gas SmartMeters used by more than nine million customers in California is now protected under a set of historic privacy rules laid out in the state's Smart Grid initiative.

TOPICS: Privacy

The California Public Utilities Commission extended a first-of-its-kind utility data privacy policy to cover “smart” gas meters that collect customer usage information to help consumers make more informed decisions.

"I think it's increasingly important in this computerized world that we have these protections for people," said commissioner Michel Florio during an Aug. 23 meeting of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

In 2011, CPUC established similar privacy rules for California’s Smart Grid that covered the collection of customer usage data from the electricity grid.

At the time, the decision was the first such Smart Grid privacy policy established in the United States and drew praise from privacy groups.

The policy created fair information practice requirements, including a consumers right of access and control, data minimization obligations, use and disclosure limitations, and data quality and integrity requirements.

The privacy rules apply to utilities and their contractors, as well as third-parties who receive usage data from those contractors.

Data collection and privacy have become lightning rod issues in the past few years as advertisers, insurers and others have set out to mine terabytes of customer data collected from social networks, smartphones, and many other sources.

Public awareness has risen in the wake of landmark privacy settlements between the Federal Trade Commission and Google and Facebook, along with international cases such as the recent German consumer group’s privacy beef with Facebook Apps.

The Smart Grid gives CPUC customers a chance to save money by using less energy and using it when costs are lower. The CPUC calculates those opportunities using data from the Smart Grid and the SmartMeters.

Nearly nine million customers in California have SmartMeters for gas and electric services.

As part of the CPUC ruling, utility provides can collect, store, use and disclose only that data needed for billing. Utility companies also can collect data for use by the grid, and for maintaining efficiency programs.

Topic: Privacy


John Fontana is a journalist focusing on authentication, identity, privacy and security issues. Currently, he is the Identity Evangelist for strong authentication vendor Yubico, where he also blogs about industry issues and standards work, including the FIDO Alliance.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • If our car doesn't snitch on you, your meter will

    I guess they'll have to retire that CSI episode where the Good Guys find the meth lab by plotting residential electricity usage.
    Robert Hahn
  • Once collected, Data Will Be Shared And or Sold EVentually, law be damned

    There is no such thing as guranteed protection of ones data. It masy take theft of the data or a change in ownership of the data (i.e. when one company purchases or merges with another) or even just a relation in laws at some point down the road (perhaps after a politcian or 2 has been properly bribede legally thanks to the Citizens United ruling by the supreme court) your protected data WILL be shared either thru the purchase of that dat or open sharing of it. Its NOT a matter of if but when and only a fool would believe their data is protected over the long haul.

    Does placing your moeny in a bank guarantee its protection? No. There are certain insurances in place (like the FDIC) to cover monies lost that were kept by the bank but those have limits and the guarantee is only good so long as the entty backing it can stay solvent. Even then we see that in some case as happened recently with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange case, you can still have your moeny stolen and the courts will allow the theft of that moeny without any compensation to you the victim.