Call to ensure consumer privacy in Ontario’s smart grid


Toronto, ON, Canada — (METERING.COM) — May 14, 2010 – Consumer privacy is a crucial element of the smart grid electrical framework being developed in Ontario and must not be sacrificed amidst a sea of enthusiasm for electricity reform, says the province’s Information and Privacy Commissioner, Dr Ann Cavoukian.

In her 2009 Annual Report, Cavoukian says that while the smartening of the electricity grid will offer many benefits for the economy and the environment, her overarching privacy concern is the smart grid’s ability to greatly increase the amount of information that is currently available relating to the habits and behaviors of individuals within their homes.

In a future smart grid scenario that does not build in privacy, intimate details of customers’ lives could be easily discerned by data automatically fed by appliances and other devices to the companies providing electric power (e.g. what time you cook, shower, or go to bed — and the security issues such as whether the house has an alarm system). Once inferences can be drawn on granular energy consumption information flowing outside of the home, such as real time energy use data, future consumers may have questions including: Who will have access to this sensitive data? For what purposes? What are the obligations of companies making smart appliances and smart grid systems to protect my privacy?

The best response is to ensure that privacy is proactively embedded into the design of the future smart grid, from start to finish – end to end, or “privacy via design,” continues Cavoukian, adding that meetings with stakeholders in the sector have indicated a high level of understanding and commitment to privacy.

“As we move forward, the government of Ontario – in leading the province towards full smart grid implementation – must continue to ensure that privacy is a cornerstone of the smart grid.”