New 'Smart' Electrical Meters Raise Privacy Issues

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New ‘Smart’ Electrical Meters Raise Privacy Issues
Agence France Presse
By Daniel Silva
Friday, November 6, 2009

MADRID (AFP) – The new “smart meters” utilities are installing in homes around the world to reduce energy use raise fresh privacy issues because of the wealth of information about consumer habits they reveal, experts said Friday.

The devices send data on household energy consumption directly to utilities on a regular basis, allowing the firms to manage demand more efficiently and advise households when it is cheaper to turn on appliances.

But privacy experts gathered in Madrid for a three-day conference which wraps up Friday warned that the meters can also reveal intimate details about customers’ habits such as when they eat, what time they go to sleep or how much television they watch.

Christopher Wolf quoted:
“The collection and storage and retention of the data makes it vulnerable to security breaches as well as to government access,” Christopher Wolf, the co-chairman and founder of the Washington-based Future of Privacy Forum, told AFP.

“It is really an issue of how much information about us can be collected by a third party, how much do they really need, how long do they need to keep it, what should the rules be on retention and when should destruction of it occur.”

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