When it comes to smart grid data, how much is enough — and how much is too much? That question could pit the IT industry’s hopes to use smart grid data to help people save energy — and make money — against customer privacy and data security advocates worried that the same data could be abused by everyone from criminals to the government. Utilities, regulators and consumers could well be caught in the middle of that argument.
That’s the gist of a discussion last week about smart grid privacy at the California Public Utilities Commission, which is forming policies for how the state’s utilities implement smart grid systems. One of the issues that the CPUC is tackling is how utilities should be required to deliver power usage and pricing data to smart meter-enabled customers. But beyond the technical and cost questions, there’s the looming question of what to do with the data in order to protect utility customers from having their information used against them. [...]
This and other concepts are part of a broader set of “Fair Information Practice Principles” that Dempsey would like both federal and state smart grid plans to adopt. The National Institute of Standards (NIST), the federal agency putting together a national smart grid plan has said security and privacy is a key concern as well. “These are the questions you have to ask yourself — what information are you collecting, how long will you store it, who will you share it with?” [CDT's Jim] Dempsey said Friday. [...]
Certain utility customer data used inappropriate ways could lead to that data playing a part in “discriminatory, anti-competitive or illegal uses,” said Karin Hieta, a staff analyst for the Division of Ratepayers Advocates, a state agency. Numerous consumer protection and privacy groups have raised their concerns about potential abuses, such as letting burglars see when household power is off to choose which homes to rob, law enforcement agencies spying on people’s household activities without warrants, or marketers getting ahold of appliance usage data to make unwanted targeted sales pitches.
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