UK Draft Communications Bill :: Smart Meter Communications + Privacy = Overlooked

UPDATE: See here for Dr. Isaac Jamieson’s Response to the Draft Communications Bill Call for Evidence.


We recently received news of 38 Degrees’ campaign regarding the UK Government’s Snooping Bill and would like to ask our supporters to act urgently on their call to action.

Of particular note is that the Draft Communications Bill fails to adequately address privacy issues related to ‘Smart’ Meter communications data.  The UK Government presently wishes to introduce ‘Smart’ Metering into all UK homes by 2019 and wishes to access all ‘Smart’ Metering information.  This highly intrusive plan would allow it access to highly detailed information on all individuals’ lifestyles and whatever they are doing in their homes in real time (as well as through historical data collected with such systems).  This proposition is extremely intrusive and completely unwarranted.

Unlike conventional meters that measure total energy use through day and night tariffs (which are normally read four times every year), ‘Smart’ Meters allow energy use to be read with far finer granularity.  The UK industry’s draft technical specifications for ‘Smart’ Meters state a requirement for real time information every 5 seconds for electricity and every 30 minutes for gas (SMDG 2011).  The intended access to, and retention of, such data by the UK Government appears to be in direct contravention of EU Privacy Law and Human Rights legislation (Anderson & Fuloria 2010).

Every electrical appliance has its own energy fingerprint readable by ‘Smart’ Meters.  Those accessing such information from ‘Smart’ Meter data, either legally or illegally, have indications of the appliances individuals have and how often they use them.

“We … have the technology to record … (energy consumption) every minute, second, microsecond, more or less live… From that we can infer how many people are in the house, what they do, whether they’re upstairs, downstairs, do you have a dog, when do you habitually get up, when did you get up this morning, when do you have a shower: masses of private data. … We think the regulator needs to send a strong signal to say that the data belongs to consumers and consumers alone. We believe that’s a blocker to people adopting the technology,”  Martin Pollock of Siemens Energy.

Where we go from here is up to you.  If you wish to make your voice heard on this issue, you need to act TODAY.  If you do, please make special mention in your note via the 38 Degrees campaign page of the above concerns with regards to the serious – and overlooked – ‘Smart’ Meter aspect.