- I’ve seen a video describing how “smart” meters will make it possible for anyone to hack in and know all about my private life. Is this true?
- Is the data from a “smart” meter secure? Will they sell this data?
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Q: I’ve seen a video describing how “smart” meters will make it possible for anyone to hack in and know all about my private life. Is this true?
There appear to be varying degrees of security protection the systems of different utilities. People who study vulnerabilities in electronic systems have identified clear weaknesses in “smart” metering systems. We aren’t security experts and can’t say what your risks are, but having your utility usage information broadcast via wireless network from a fixed location seems like a set-up just asking for trouble. Even Homeland Security said our electric grid should not be dependent on wireless systems, which are by their nature extremely vulnerable. We understand that police will be allowed to subpoena the data that the ‘smart’ meter collects from utility companies. In addition, third party corporations will be able to access and analyze your private household appliance use data without your knowledge or consent. For example, if your health insurance company found out from your utility that you opened your fridge often in the middle of the night, they may raise your premium to cover their liability for your unhealthy lifestyle.
The CPUC has issued a requirement to CA utilities to “secure” the data they gather with “smart” meters (July 2011). Other states PUCs may be addressing this issue as well. Many people have become accustomed to disclosing private information on the internet, and may not be bothered by the prospect of one more packet of their private life traveling over a wireless network. Little do they realize how close to home these incursions into private life are coming, with ‘smart’ meter transmissions.
You have a choice about other types of internet use—whether you get on Facebook and post last night’s exploits, have a GPS tracking device activated in your smartphone following you around everywhere, whether you do your banking while stumbling down the street, eyes glued to your tiny little screen. This kind of choice is not part of “smart” meter deployments.
A “smart” meter is not a consumer device. Utilities have made a grave miscalculation about 1) the public’s absolute acceptance of 24/7 wireless technology as harmless; 2) the public’s sustained interest in vast amounts of electronic data about something they can with their own eyes (e.g. the lights are on); and 3) apathy in the face of monopoly intimidation when it comes to health, home, and privacy.
Q: Is the data from a “smart” meter secure? Will they sell this data?
In California, the CPUC has asked the utilities to secure data collected with “smart” meters and to require ratepayer’s permission before giving or selling it to a third party. Some privacy groups like EFF however are not satisfied with these watered down regulations. If you have information on other public utilities commissions’ ‘smart’ meter privacy requirements, please contact us.
There has recently been quite a bit of news on this. A recent piece showed that even utility executives are unsure about who owns the data--though only 23% think that you the consumer own it!. Here’s another article. The overlap between basic utility service for the public, and plundering commercial opportunism seems ever blurred in the issue of ‘smart’ meters.
Let them know they’ve overreached, and you are not for sale. Contact your utility to demand to know what their policy is regarding your data; file a complaint with the PUC of your state; contact local media if there has been no coverage in your area. We have contacts for many areas of the US.