Posted on May 12, 2011 by Anthony Watts

The promise was to help you control your electricity bill by becoming more aware of your energy use. The downside is that with the data gathered, other people and businesses can also become more aware of your habits, like when you go to work, go on vacation, etc. Is the potential energy savings worth the invasion of privacy trade-off? I sure don’t think so. I really don’t want PG&E or anyone else for that matter knowing how I live my life inside my own home.

To add insult to injury, the Public Utility Commission just granted PG&E a rate hike to pay for lost profits due to these devices that no consumers asked for. In my own conversion experience, PG&E basically said “our way or the highway” – I didn’t have a choice. Now I have a ZigBee WiFi capable datalogger on the side of my house, tracking my family’s habits. Now the EFF is getting involved for privacy protection. Fortunately, the PUC has now ordered PG&E to provide an opt-out plan. With privacy issues rising, there may be more takers now.

From the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

California Proposes Strong Privacy Protections for “Smart Meters”

News Update by Rebecca Jeschke

The California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has released a proposal for strong privacy protections for “smart meter” data, closely following the recommendations from EFF and the Center for Democracy and Technology. If adopted and finalized, the plan could become a model for how to protect sensitive consumer information while providing new ways to save energy.

California’s PG&E is currently in the process of installing “smart meters” that will collect detailed data of energy use —750 to 3000 data points per month per household—for every energy customer in the state. These meters are aimed at helping consumers monitor and control their energy usage, but the information that is collected can reveal much more about a household’s daily activities: when people wake up, when they come home, when they go on vacation, and maybe even when they take a hot bath.

Many third parties will want access to this sensitive information, and the California PUC has recommended strong protections for the transfer of the data to others. This should help prevent the data’s misuse, hopefully blocking new intrusions into our home and private life. We hope the California PUC goes on to adopt its proposal, creating a blueprint for energy data and privacy protection that can be used across the country.

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