B.C. Hydro not complying with customer notifications for smart meters: privacy commissioner by Andrew Duffy – Times Colonist – December 19, 2011:


by Andrew Duffy      December 19, 2011

(photo)  B.C. Hydro hopes to have smart meters installed at all homes and businesses in the province by the end of next year.

Victoria, B.C. – The province’s privacy commissioner has made 14 recommendations to improve privacy and security practices at B.C. Hydro in the wake of an investigation into the security of Hydro’s smart meter program.

According to Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham, Hydro has plenty of room for improvement in the $930 million program which will see the replacement of the existing 1.9 million electro-magnetic meters installed in every house and business in the province with new digital meters.

The program is designed to provide a more accurate picture of energy consumption both to Hydro and the consumer and is an early step in what Hydro claims will be the modernization of B.C.’s electricity system.

“It is clear from my investigation that B.C. Hydro is taking privacy and security seriously as it develops a framework for the implementation of smart meters and a smart grid,” said Denham. “But there are areas for improvement.”

Once smart meters are installed — the program is to be completed before the end of 2012 — they will provide hourly information about customers’ electricity consumption. As a result, analysis of household consumption may reveal more information about our daily lives.

In her report released Monday, Denham found Hydro is complying with the Freedom of Information and Protection and Privacy Act with regard to the collection, use, disclosure, protection and retention of the personal information of its customers.

However, she pointed out Hydro is not in compliance with regard to the notification it provides to its customers about smart meters.

“B.C. Hydro is required by law to tell their customers the purpose for collecting personal information for the smart meters project, what legal authority they have to do so and to provide contact information for a B.C. Hydro employee who can answer any questions that arise regarding collection,” she said. “Hydro is not currently meeting this requirement, and we’ve made some recommendations to help them improve their customer notification.

According to the commissioner Hydro has committed to put action plans in place to address the recommendations.

“There is still much work to be done by B.C. Hydro with respect to smart meters and the smart grid. While I am satisfied with the work that has been done to date, my office will continue to take an active role in monitoring this project to ensure B.C. Hydro is properly considering privacy and security,” said Denham.

The investigation was launched after the Commissioner’s Office received complaints and correspondence from more than 600 people.

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A link to the full report can be found at www.oipc.bc.ca