Privacy warning over new smart meters

A watchdog for the EU has warned that energy meters that are supposed to be ‘smart’ may actually bring with them a measurable privacy risk. According to the European Data Protection Supervisor, safeguards are needed to make sure that firms exercise caution when they upload consumers’ information into the meters to make sure that the details do not fall in the wrong hands.

Some of the reasons that the smart meters could prove to be a problem is the fact that they can track consumers while they are at home, what medical devices they use, and even how these same consumers choose to spend free time on their own.

Ministers and UK energy firms believe that if used correctly there will be no problems protecting the privacy of consumers. At the moment the government is heavily consulting the type of privacy safeguards that are placed on smart meters.

The new meters are expected to be in place at over 30 million homes throughout the UK by the year 2019. The watchdog group however believes that consumers should have the choice to decide if they want their electricity and gas details shared via their meters.

At the moment it is thought that consumes could opt out of sharing their personal information on a daily basis with their energy companies, but opt in for data that is gathered on a frequent basis for the purpose of billing.

The EDPS believes that safeguards must be put in place that are stronger recommending that customers have to be explicitly asked if they want their details shared before any data is used from the smart meters. The main concern of the EDPS is how intrusive these meters could be as they laterally allow energy companies to trace the activities of a household.