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Monitoring Court Cases on Smart Meter Privacy

Duke Energy

Less than a week ago, a rule from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals came down in a case about smart meters. covered the case, and their take can be read here, but I thought perhaps this case would be an interesting one for the Energy Efficiency Community of Energy Central to discuss. 

For background, the dispute in Naperville Smart Meter Awareness v. City of Naperville arose when the city-owned electricity cooperative began installing smart meters at the homes of their customers. Concerned that these installations risked their privacy in matters of: when people were home/away, when they watched TV, when they prepared meals, a group of citizens took to the courts to weigh in. 

What was particularly interesting about this ruling was that the court appeared to agree with both sides:

  • The court agreed with these citizens that the data being collected by the public utility was giving government officials private information that would otherwise have been unavailable, seemingly agreeing with privacy concerns
  • But the court also said (unanimously, no less) that such private information gathered did not infringe on citizens' Fourth Amendment rights ("The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.")

As complicated legal cases like this one typically go, this fight is likely far from over. But as we usher in this new age of big data, digitalization, and information, this iterative process of laws and court cases will be crucial for utilities and energy consumers alike to follow. 

Have you come across similar concerns from customers of your organizations regarding the privacy of their data as it relates to smart meters and/or smart products? Are decisions being made too quickly or is it playing out appropriately? Where do you see such issues going in the future? Eager to hear your thoughts, Energy Central!

Matt Chester's picture

Thank Matt for the Post!

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