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Privacy Invasion

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."


---Fourth Amendement to the Constitution


Smart Meters do much more than just show how much electricity you use. The new Smart Meters are watching you. Jerry Day explains. 06-30-2011

The below image IEEE Spectrum Magazine (flagship publication of the IEEE) reports that "of more than 9,000 consumers polled in 17 countries, about one-third said they would be discouraged from using energy-management programs, such as smart metering, if it gave utilities greater access to data about their personal energy use." They go on to say that "each appliance—the refrigerator, kettle, toaster, washing machine—has its own energy fingerprint, or 'appliance load signature,' that a smart meter can read. Anyone who gets hold of this data gets a glimpse of exactly what appliances you use and how often you use them. 

Image: National Institute of Standards and Technology
Who wants smart meter data? How could the data be used?
Utilities To monitor electricity usage and load; to determine bills
Electricity usage advisory companies To promote energy conservation and awareness
Insurance companies To determine health care premiums based on unusual behaviors that might indicate illness
Marketers To profile customers for targeted advertisements
Law enforcers To identify suspicious or illegal activity*
Civil litigators To identify property boundaries and activities on premises
Landlords To verify lease compliance
Private investigators To monitor specific events
The press To get information about famous people
Creditors To determine behavior that might indicate creditworthiness
Criminals To identify the best times for a burglary or to identify high-priced appliances to steal

Source: ”Potential Privacy Impacts that Arise from the Collection and Use of Smart Grid Data,” National Institute of Standards and Technology, Volume 2, pp. 30–32, Table 5-3.

From the Smart Grid Cybersecurity Guidelines, Sept. 2010 (pdf)

The Smart Grid will greatly expand the amount of data that can be monitored, collected, aggregated, and analyzed. This expanded information, particularly from energy consumers and other individuals, raises added privacy concerns. For example, specific appliances and generators may be identified from the signatures they exhibit in electric information at the meter when collections occur with great frequency as opposed to through traditional monthly meter readings. This more detailed information expands the possibility of intruding on consumers’ and other individuals’ privacy expectations.  

The Supreme Court in Kyllo (533 U.S.) clearly reaffirmed the heightened Fourth Amendment privacy interest in the home and noted this interest is not outweighed by technology that allows government agents to “see” into the suspect’s home without actually entering the premises.  The Court stated, “We think that obtaining by sense-enhancing technology any information regarding the interior of the home that could not otherwise have been obtained without physical intrusion into a constitutionally protected area, constitutes a search” and is “presumptively unreasonable without a warrant.”

Privacy Concerns Challenge Smart Grid Rollout, Reuters, Jun 25, 2010

"We, Siemens, have the technology to record it (energy consumption) every minute, second, microsecond, more or less live," said Martin Pollock of Siemens Energy, an arm of the German engineering giant, which provides metering services.

"From that we can infer how many people are in the house, what they do, whether they're upstairs, downstairs, do you have a dog, when do you habitually get up, when did you get up this morning, when do you have a shower: masses of private data."


"Such data might be used in ways that raise privacy concerns. For example, granular Smart Grid data may allow numerous assumptions about the health of a dwelling’s resident in which some insurance companies, employers, newspapers (when regarding public figures), civil litigants, and others could be interested. Most directly, specific medical devices may be uniquely identified through serial numbers or MAC addresses, or may have unique electrical signatures; either could indicate that the resident suffers from a particular disease or condition that requires the device."