Information about power usage, which can be used to identify when a home is being occupied, is being shared with third parties of which includes government agencies, private organisations and off-shore data processing centres.
This unethical breach of privacy was discovered on the website of one of Australia’s largest electricity retailer, Origin Energy.
Electricity customers, who sign up for an online service that provides the account holder with detailed information about their electricity usage, are unwillingly agreeing to share their private information with third parties.
A 496 word Privacy/Consent policy form explicitly states that customers who wish to sign up for the service that provides them with information about their electricity usage, must agree that the following organisations have access to their private data:
- Government authorities
- Electricity installers
- Mail houses
- Data processing analysts
- IT service providers
- Smart energy technology providers
- Debt collection agencies
- Credit reporting agencies
A spokesperson for the electricity company (Origin Energy) responsible for this revelation was recently quoted as saying “the additional information requested about each household adds to the richness of the Origin Smart experience” (Source: The Age).
One private organisation that is being given personal information of Origin Energy customers is Tendril, a self-described consumer engagement application and services provider and an organisation that believes smart grids can help fight climate change.
Alarmingly, Tendril’s own website doesn’t explicitly state how it uses data gathered by its clients and for what purposes the data can and cannot be used for.
What implication this has for Australian residents is unknown.
There has been an overwhelming opposition to the roll-out and installation of smart meters around the world.
Smart Meter opt-out coalitions are present in almost all major municipalities that have smart meters present. Unfortunately, in many municipalities an opt-put option is not available.
The author (Andrew Puhanic) was forced to have a smart meter installed on his property, with the only notice given about the installation being a letter informing the ‘month’ that the smart meter would be installed.
The greatest concern with smart meter data being shared with third parties is the fact that the third-party organisation could easily identify (over time) a pattern of when you do and do not use electricity.
This information could fall into the wrong hands and could be used to determine when your home is un-occupied.
In Australia, the erosion of privacy was escalated further by a new proposal to force internet and telephone companies to retain customer records for more than two years. For more information about this proposal, click here.
Households that are forced to have smart meters installed must be assured that the information their electricity company collects is not shared with third parties.
Ultimately, smart meters are designed to collect information about household electricity usage and now there is proof that electricity companies are openly sharing information collected by smart meters.
Written by Andrew Puhanic