Smart Grid data privacy issues

The former refers to a range of potential problems from the improper use of the information. It is possible that an employee at a utility could use information from a smart meters to determine when customers are out of their house or have purchased new electrical items, and thus when to steal the owners possessions or stalk them. To reiterate this point, Google has recently come under fire in the UK because its street view cars captured the username and passwords of emails from households using wireless networks. If this went into the wrong hands, it would be relatively easy to commit large scale credit card fraud, for example.

Utilities or other companies could use the information for marketing purposes or use consumption behaviour data to introduce non-competitive pricing. By introducing very low pricing targeted towards the individual consumer to drive competitors off the market.

Not to mention utilities need to store all of this data and also source sufficient storage facilities that has both the capacity needed and is very secure. It is not unfeasible that utilities may need store exabytes (million terabytes) of data, which will be costly. In August 2010 it is estimated that storage of one exabyte costs US $500 million. However, every year the cost of storage halves and the storage of this information may cost US $4,000 in 2025.

It is also possible that applications will be developed whereby real-time energy usage is uploaded onto a twitter page or facebook account using a special application. Consumers may inadvertently give this information to hackers or so called ‘friends’ that use this information to stalk the consumer or burgle their house.

There needs to be regulation in place to ensure that similar incidents don’t take place with data generated from the smart grid. While data privacy laws are in place in most of the major smart grid markets, nothing specifically refers to the smart grid. In September 2010 a law with new privacy protections for consumers’ energy use data was signed in California. This legislation includes specific information on information disclosure, data security/protection, liability, and continued use.

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