Smart Meters Could Sabotage the Grid

How Privacy (Or Lack of It) Could Sabotage the Grid

By Jules Polonetsky and Christopher Wolf

In October, President Obama announced $3.4 billion in federal grants to help build our nation’s Smart Grid. The President said that the technology that will make up the Smart Grid will make the nation’s power transmission system more efficient, encourage renewable energy sources and give consumers better control over their electricity usage and costs.

The potential benefits are clear. Far less obvious to many is that the smart power grid is also a smart information grid, a system that Cisco’s CEO has predicted will be bigger than the Internet. But while Internet privacy issues are limited to the Web activities of users, the Smart Grid will involve the collection of information about what goes on at people’s homes. As Commerce Secretary Gary Locke stated this September, “The major benefit provided by the Smart Grid… is also its Achilles’ heel from a privacy viewpoint.”

This fall, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) identified several potential data privacy concerns involving Smart Grid technology. They include the threat of identity theft, the possibility of personal behavioral patterns being recorded and real-time surveillance.