Monday, October 12, 2009

"What will talking power meters say about you?"

The October 9 entry on Bob Sullivan's MSNBC blog, "The Red Tape Chronicles," asks:
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?
The potential benefits of Smart Grid technology are many, including more efficient use of energy, fewer blackouts and brownouts, and lower energy costs. But utility companies will collect enormous amounts of data on consumers hooked up to the Smart Grid. Utility companies might sell that data to companies that will use it to protect themselves - like the hypothetical auto insurance company that might raise your premium or cancel your policy (or notify the police?) based on thin evidence that you drink and drive most weekends.

Strong data privacy laws in Europe may protect EU consumers, but the U.S. does not have such laws. Utility companies have financial incentives to adopt Smart Grid technology, and also to sell the data. Is there any force in the United States stronger than money, a force that can get laws implemented to protect consumers at some financial cost to business? If there is, it isn't Congress.

Thanks to Donald Searing of Syncere Systems for drawing my attention to this story.

Ken Pimple, PAIT Project Director