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Finance

EFF: Smart meters pose threat to privacy

Smart metering is coming soon to your home. It will facilitate energy usage and tie consumption to peak demand energy costs and charge you more for power you use. The Electronic Frontier Foundation thinks it also invades your privacy.
Written by Doug Hanchard, Contributor on

Smart metering is coming soon to your home. It will facilitate energy usage and tie consumption to peak demand energy costs and charge you more for power you use. The goal is to change users energy usage to think about conservation measures that consumers can take action upon. Some examples are to change the time you use your dishwasher, washing machines and other appliances to reduce peak demand for power which should translate to lower power costs. Many of these appliances have time delay options.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has other concerns. In a press release issued yesterday, the EFF believe smart meter devices will collect data that is privacy sensitive.

"The data points gathered by advanced energy metering projects will allow the reconstruction of your life: when you wake up, when get home, when you go on vacation. It's not hard to imagine a divorce lawyer subpoenaing this information, or an insurance company interpreting the data in a way that allows it to penalize customers, or criminals intercepting the information to plan a burglary," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Lee Tien. "We must have meaningful rules to protect this extremely sensitive information."

The current generation of smart meters are not that capable, nor is the infrastructure of the utilities. The only thing the meters will do (right now) is  track a consumer's rate (how many kilowatts) of power consumption and record the information at the utility's back office infrastructure.  The meters do not connect to any appliances plugged in. In the future, wireless technology will connect appliances to meters that are connected to a smart applications linked to the meter. Back office infrastructure required to operate such an advanced tracking system would require a significant database design and architecture.

Additional resources:

EPIC Formal Comments to California Public Utility Commission

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