April 11, 2011
HB1079 by Rep. Martin, Rep. Sears and Sen. Jolley, is a bill requested by OG&E to regulate the information generated by the new Smart Meters that they are installing in some locations in Oklahoma. This bill passed the House and is scheduled to be heard in the Senate.
What is a Smart Meter?
A smart meter is usually an electrical meter that records consumption of electric energy in intervals of an hour or less and communicates that information at least daily back to the utility for monitoring and billing purposes. Smart meters enable two-way communication between the meter and the central system. Unlike home energy monitors, smart meters can gather data for remote reporting. (source Wikipedia)
With smart meters “. . .is possible to infer detailed information about household activity—questions such as how many people are in a home at a given time and whether a resident went out for dinner on a particular evening, for example. Entities that gather large amounts of data would potentially be able to predict even more detailed facts, such as residents’ genders and ages. Such information is a foundation for building powerful analytic tools for predicting behavior that could potentially be misused by companies or even criminals.” warns privacy experts.
The ability for this new technology to provide a window into the most personal aspects of our lives is enormous. I’ll leave for another day the amount of control it will enable over us.
A couple of good articles that explain the privacy concerns related to smart meters and the smart grid;
HB 1079, originally (mis) named the Electric Utility Data Protection Act is heavy on the utility data and light on consumer protections. In fact, this bill is written to grant new rights and privileges to OG&E but does nothing at all to protect the consumers
The first problem is that HB 1079 establishes new law that grants the utility company-not the customer- ownership of consumers’ personal data.
The notion that our information belongs to utility companies is by no means a foregone conclusion. For instance, in Texas, lawmakers chose to specify ownership of all meter data in favor the consumer.
Texas Utilities Code 39.107(b)
All meter data, including all data generated, provided, or otherwise made available, by advanced meters and meter information networks, shall belong to a customer, including data used to calculate charges for service, historical load data, and any other proprietary customer information.
Texas also requires written authorization by the customer before permitting a third party access to their data.
The question of who owns our data is an important one. Federal agencies (including the Department of Energy) that have examined this issue have consistently stated that consumers should retain authority over their energy information and that utilities should only share this data upon being granted permission by their customers.
“. . .it should be the consumer who decides whether and for what purposes a third party is allowed to access or receive usage data, the DOE said. Consumers need to have access to their usage data and should be allowed to make informed choices about allowing third-party access to their information.”
The Department of Energy also warns of the invasive nature of smart grid technology and the importance of privacy protections.
“Because such data can also disclose fairly detailed information about the behavior and activities of a particular household, however, there was also broad consensus that the collection of CEUD raises privacy implications that should be acknowledged and respected during the development of intelligent electrical-metering-and-usage-monitoring technologies.15 It is the energy usage data itself and the ability to tie that data to an individual or household that makes the data particularly sensitive.” link
I was told by one of the authors of this bill that it was his intent to protect people’s data from being sold to a third party without the expressed consent of the utility customer who is generating the data. I appreciate that but after going over the bill thoroughly I can find nothing in it that would accomplish this.. I asked for a clarification “Could you please point out for me that portion of the bill?” two days ago and have yet to get a reply.
HB1079 gives utilities the right to share customer information without consent to third parties not only for purposes related to provision of services but also in “carrying out its business objectives as outlined in subsection B of Section 4 of this act”
Subsection B. Electric utilities may utilize customer-identifiable usage data for their internal business purposes which may include, but are not limited to, the:
4. Development, enhancement, marketing, or provision of energy-related products and services;
So while the bill uses seemingly protective language (see section 6 A) like “maintain confidentiality” and says it will “limit” the use to “support” services the actual definitions of what those uses may include but “ARE NOT LIMITED TO” . . .include things like “Development, enhancement, marketing, or provision of energy-related products and services;” (All emphasis mine)
Use #4 alone (Development, enhancement, marketing) throws the data barn door open wide.
There are many other problems with this bill. I encourage you to read it. It is very easy to understand what this bill does and that is pimp your data and open up a window into your personal life that is completely disregards your right to privacy.
Email State Senators and tell them ;
- These devices collect data that can reveal extremely personal information about our habits and behaviors.
- The customers are the rightful owners of this data-not OG&E
- Express customer consent should be required before our information is shared with any third party for uses other than essential provision of services.
- This bill is worse than nothing because it would expand the rights of OG&E and limit our rights to privacy in our own homes.
- To vote NO on HB1079
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