Smart Grid technology raises cyber security and privacy rights concerns

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Privacy rights experts and consumer protection advocates have been raising awareness to risks and inherent privacy implications associated with the latest "Smart Meter" technology that when installed on televisions and appliances measure the level of personal power usage in your home and business. The data is then shared with the government, utility companies and an array of third parties. Advocacy experts already concerned over privacy rights, are now also fearful that this personal detailed data can land in the hands of hackers and cyber criminals.  

An earlier blog shared by Jim Malmberg, Executive Director at ACCESS, touched on the  growing privacy rights concerns. Below he expands on those concerns, noting the various risks to our personal security. The so called Smart Grid is also likely to lead to unintended consequences; possibly of a criminal nature.

Smart Grid technology; Will it put an end to Privacy in Your Home As You Know It?

Do you think that the government should be able to tell you to turn off your television because it uses too much power? Should the government be able to shut down your air conditioner because they think you are emitting too much in the way of greenhouse gases? For that matter, would you feel comfortable if both the government and your local utility company, knew about and could monitor, each and every appliance in your home? Or if they could, look at when and how much you use each of those appliances?


Just as disturbing is the lack of a privacy standard that places consumers in control of their information. It seems that some organizations are already lining up to figure out how to use the wealth of personal information that can be collected. Just imagine the marketing opportunities that will be available to utility companies if they can share your information.

Since the Smart Grid will allow you to see your usage habits via the internet, the hacking and virus opportunities will be endless. If a criminal wants to know if you are home, all they will have to do is find a way to monitor your electric usage information. And just imagine the joy of having the install antivirus software on your oven or toaster. If you don't like the way your computer works when the antivirus software is working overtime, then you're bound to love it when television freezes up because it now needs a virus scan.Read article in its entirety at ACCESS.

For more information on Smart Grid technology concerns, keep reading...

Smart Grids Offer Cyber Attack Opportunities

Hackers are likely to exploit the 440 million potential targets researchers predict smart grids will offer by 2015.
Is your home electricity meter the next device you have to worry about getting hacked? Researchers at last week's IEEE SmartGridComm2010  conference in Gaithersburg, Md., warned that as utilities transition to greater use of smart grids, their increased two-way communication would leave consumers and suppliers open to more forms of cyber attack. In fact, by 2015, they estimated, the smart grid will offer up to 440 million potential points to be hacked.

Smart Grids and Privacy
Electronic Privacy Information Center (

Privacy implications for smart grid technology deployment centers on the collection, retention, sharing, or reuse of electricity consumption information on individuals, homes, or offices. Fundamentally, smart grid systems will be multi-directional communications and energy transfer networks that enable electricity service providers, consumers, or third party energy management assistance programs to access consumption data.

A list of potential privacy consequences of Smart Grid systems include:

   1.  Identity Theft
   2. Determine Personal Behavior Patterns
   3. Determine Specific Appliances Used
   4. Perform Real-Time Surveillance
   5. Reveal Activities Through Residual Data
   6. Targeted Home Invasions (latch key children, elderly, etc.)
   7. Provide Accidental Invasions
   8. Activity Censorship
   9. Decisions and Actions Based Upon Inaccurate Data
  10. Profiling
  11. Unwanted Publicity and Embarrassment
  12. Tracking Behavior Of Renters/Leasers
  13. Behavior Tracking (possible combination with Personal Behavior Patterns)
  14. Public Aggregated Searches Revealing Individual Behavior

The Privacy Problems Inherent in the Smart Grid
Privacy Rights

The infrastructure that will support the Smart Grid will be capable of informing consumers of their day-to-day energy use, right down to the appliance level.  This sophisticated infrastructure has the potential to curb greenhouse gas emissions and reduce consumers' energy bills.  However, it introduces the possibility of collecting detailed information on individual energy consumption usage and patterns within consumers' homes, traditionally the most private of places.

What will talking power meters say about you?
by Bob Sullivan, Red Tape Chronicles

Would you sign up for a discount with your power company in exchange for surrendering control of your thermostat?  What if it means that, one day, your auto insurance company will know that you regularly arrive home on weekends at 2:15 a.m., just after the bars close?

Welcome to the complex world of the Smart Grid, which may very well pit environmental concerns against thorny privacy issues.  If you think such debates are purely philosophical, you're behind the times.

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