Energy smart meters are a threat to privacy, says watchdog
European Data Protection Supervisor warns 'massive collection of personal data' could be accessed without safeguards
by Jamie Doward and Caroline Mortimer, UK Guardian Saturday 30 June 2012
Hi-tech monitors that track households' energy consumption threaten to become a major privacy issue, according to the European watchdog in charge of protecting personal data.
The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) has warned that smart meters, which must be introduced into every home in the UK within the next seven years, will be used to track much more than energy consumption unless proper safeguards are introduced.
The EDPS warns that "while the Europe-wide rollout of smart metering systems may bring significant benefits, it will also enable massive collection of personal data".
It said the technology could be used to track what "households do within the privacy of their own homes, whether they are away on holiday or at work, if someone uses a specific medical device or a baby monitor, or how they spend their free time".
It claims the vast amount of information collected by the new generation of devices could have serious consequences for consumers and what they pay for their energy.
"These patterns can be useful for analysing our energy use for energy conservation but, together with data from other sources, the potential for extensive data mining is very significant," said Giovanni Buttarelli, assistant director of the EDPS.
"Profiles can be used for many other purposes, including marketing, advertising and price discrimination by third parties."
(Anna Fielder, consumer rights advocate and campaigner at Privacy International) added that a key issue for privacy watchdogs would be the frequency at which information would be collected from the new meters. "If you collect energy information from a household very often, particularly live, even a few things at the end of each day, you get an awful lot of information about people's lifestyles that can potentially be abused in a number of different ways," Fielder said.
read … UK Guardian