Feeds

Smart meters are 'massive surveillance' tech - privacy supremo

Euro watchdog demands data law to protect punters

Intelligent flash storage arrays

The European Data Protection Supervisor has warned that smart meters are a significant privacy threat and wants limits on the retention and use of customer data before it's too late.

The EDPS is an independent authority figure tasked with identifying where EU policies might represent a risk to privacy. He reckons next-generation meters, which precisely monitor electricity use within homes, are a very likely candidate unless his concerns are addressed ahead of time.

Peter Hustinx, who fills the role with the assistance of Giovanni Buttarelli, admits there are advantages of smart metering, but warns that the technology will "also enable massive collection of personal data which can track what members of a household do within the privacy of their own homes". He pulls up examples of baby monitors and medical devices, which have identifiable patterns of energy consumption and could therefore be used to monitor what people are doing.

That might sound fanciful, but researchers have already demonstrated that the pattern of energy consumed by a decent flat-screen TV can be used to work out what programme is being watched, and Hustinx is probably right that this isn't information most of us would wish to share with our electricity providers.

Smart meters need to collect all that data in order to reduce our reliance on power - it's now an article of faith that once we know how much energy we're using we'll magically reduce that consumption, so the EU is committed to mandating smart meters by 2020. Therefore the EDPS thinks we need legislation now, before it's too late, stating what the data can be used for and how long it can be retained.

The real way to reduce power consumption is by using smart appliances - such as a washing machine that can be configured to run during the night - at the behest of electricity suppliers and with a suitably discounted rate. But this scenario is still a long way off from reality for the majority of us, so energy targets remain pinned to the idea we'll voluntarily wash less.

The UK's Department of Energy and Climate Change has taken some steps in this direction, promising that collected data won't be shared with third parties, and requiring decent security to prevent it being stolen, but even that stops short of the limitations suggested by the EDPS.

The European Commission is preparing a document on the impact of all this new data, but as planned it's limited to vague objectives rather than specific requirements, which is what the EDPS thinks will be necessary. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
You can crunch it all you like, but the answer is NOT always in the data
Hear that, 'data journalists'? Our analytics prof holds forth
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.