Privacy Issues in Smart Electrical Grids: Another Internet of Things Problem

Privacy Issues in Smart Electrical Grids: Another Internet of Things Problem

Smart grids – electrical grids that allow two-way communication between utilities and consumers – represent an exciting frontier in the Internet of Things, with ramifications for energy efficiency, weather resiliency and climate change, among others. As the Department of Energy writes, “[t]he Smart Grid represents an unprecedented opportunity to move the energy industry into a new era of reliability, availability, and efficiency that will contribute to our economic and environmental health.”

But like many aspects of the Internet of Things, smart grids also present privacy concerns. Few people fret about the privacy of their monthly electric bill, but smart meters could change that. Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, has noted that smart meter data can tell much more about an individual than you might initially think: “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.” If sufficiently detailed, this data can be used to infer such characteristics as “sleeping habits, vacation, health, affluence, or other lifestyle details.”

For this reason, the Department of Energy and the Federal Smart Grid Task Force have collaborated to release a new Voluntary Code of Conduct “intended to apply as high level principles of conduct for both utilities and third parties.” These principles are:

– Customer Notice and Awareness;

– Customer Choice and Consent;

– Customer Data Access and Participation;

– Integrity and Security; and

– Self Enforcement Management and Redress.

Boiled down, the Code of Conduct focuses on disclosing to consumers how data is collected and the purposes for which it will be used, as well as providing to consumers some level of control over access to their data. Indeed, the Code requires affirmative customer consent for disclosure of data for “secondary purposes,” meaning purposes outside of utility and closely-related services, but such consent is not required where data is aggregated or anonymized. The Code also makes recommendations regarding aggregation and anonymization to limit the chance of identification of individual consumers.

Utilities and firms doing business with utilities should be aware of the Code and consider its recommendations whether they seek to adopt it or not. As Colin has noted, the FTC is keenly attuned to the privacy concerns presented by new technology, as evidenced by its reports proposing best practices for such contexts as data brokering, connected car technology, online behavioral advertising, facial recognition, and mobile privacy, as well as by its comments on the Code. As such, firms would be wise to take a pro-active approach in developing policies to deal with smart meter data in a secure, responsible way.

Media Blackout on the U.S. “Smart Grid Deployment”: Designs and Monied Interests Behind “Smart Meters” Installed across America

Media Blackout on the U.S. “Smart Grid Deployment”: Designs and Monied Interests Behind “Smart Meters” Installed across America


Over the past several years a conspiracy of silence has surrounded the implementation of the Smart Grid across the United States, perhaps with good reason. If the public were aware of what lay behind this agenda there would likely be considerable outcry and resistance.

“Smart meters”–the principal nodes of the Smart Grid network–are being installed on homes and businesses by power utilities across the United States under the legal and fiscal direction of the United States government. In December 2007 both houses of the US Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed into law the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA).

This 310-page piece of legislation employs the dubious science of anthropogenic CO2-based climate change science to mandate an array of policies, such as fuel efficiency standards for vehicles and “green” energy initiatives. Tucked away in the final pages of this law is the description and de facto mandate for national implementation of the Smart Grid that the Bush administration promised would result in “some of the largest CO2 emission cuts in our nation’s history.”[1]

The bill unambiguously lays out the design and intent behind the Smart Grid, including surveillance, tiered energy pricing, and energy rationing for all US households and businesses through round-the-clock monitoring of RFID-chipped “Energy Star” appliances.[2] Congress and “other stakeholders” (presumably for-profit utilities and an array of Smart Grid technology patent holders[3] whose lobbyists co-wrote the legislation) describe the Smart Grid’s characteristics and goals via ten provisions.

(1) Increased use of digital information and controls technology to improve reliability, security, and efficiency of the electric grid.
(2) Dynamic optimization of grid operations and resources with full cyber-security.
(3) Deployment[4] and integration of distributed resources and generation, including renewable resources.
(4) Development and incorporation of demand response, demand-side resources, and energy efficiency resources.
(5) Deployment of “smart” technologies (real-time, automated, interactive technologies that optimize the physical operation of appliances and consumer devices) for metering, communications concerning grid operations and status, and distribution automation.
(6) Integration of “smart” appliances and consumer devices.
(7) Deployment and integration of advanced electricity storage and peak-shaving technologies, including plug-in electric and hybrid electric vehicles, and thermal-storage air conditioning.
(8) Provision to consumers of timely information and control operations.
(9) Development of standards for communication and interoperability of appliances and equipment connected to the electric grid, including the infrastructure serving the grid.
(10) Identification and lowering of unreasonable or unnecessary barriers to adoption of smart grid technologies, practices, and services [emphases added].[5]

Less than two years after EISA’s enactment President Barack Obama directed $3.4 billion of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act to Smart Grid development. Matching funds from the energy industry brought the total initial Smart Grid investment to $8 billion.[6] The overall completion of the Smart Grid will cost another $330 billion.[7] Today a majority of energy delivery throughout the US is routed to homes equipped with smart meters that monitor power consumption on a minute-to-minute basis.

As noted, the American public remains largely unaware of the numerous designs and monied interests behind the Smart Grid–not to mention how smart meters themselves pose substantial dangers to human health and privacy. This is because the plan for tiered energy pricing via wireless monitoring of household appliances has been almost entirely excluded from news media coverage since the EISA became law on December 19, 2007.

A LexisNexis search of US print news outlets for “Energy Independence and Security Act” and “Smart Grid” between the dates December 1, 2007 to January 31, 2008 yields virtually no results.

An identical LexisNexis search of such media for the dates December 1, 2007 to February 18, 2015 retrieves a total 11 print news items appearing in US dailies (seven in McClatchey Tribune papers; one article appearing in each of the following: New York Times 8/14/08, Santa Fe New Mexican, 5/12/09, Providence Journal, 2/24/11, Tampa Bay Times, 12/13/12).[8]

Even this scant reportage scarcely begins to examine the implications of the EISA’s Smart Grid plan. The New York Times chose to confine its coverage to a 364-word article, “The 8th Annual Year in Ideas; Smart Grids.” “It’s a response to what economists would call a tragedy of the commons,” the Times explains.

[P]eople use as much energy as they are willing to pay for, without giving any thought to how their use affects the overall amount of energy available … Enter Xcel’s $100 million initiative, called SmartGridCity, a set of technologies that give both energy providers and their customers more control over power consumption … Consumers, through a Web-enabled control panel in their homes, are able to regulate their energy consumption more closely — for example, setting their A.C. system to automatically reduce power use during peak hours.[9]

News in far more modest papers likewise resembles the promotional materials distributed by the utilities themselves. “There will soon be a time when homeowners can save electricity by having appliances automatically adjust power for peak-demand times and other periods of inactivity by a signal sent through the electrical outlet,” an article in Sunbury Pennsylvania’s Daily Item reads. “‘Right now, it’s at the infant stage,’” a power company executive observes. “‘We didn’t worry about this until two years ago. Nobody cared when electricity was five cents per kilowatt hour. People just bit the bullet and paid the bill.’”[10]


Along these lines, the Department of Energy’s Assistant Secretary for the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability Patricia Hoffman, is charged under the EISA with federal oversight of nationwide Smart Grid implementation. In other words, Hoffman is America’s “Smart Grid Czar.” Yet despite heading up such a dubious program since 2010, she has almost entirely escaped journalistic scrutiny, having been referenced or quoted in only four US daily papers (Washington Post, 2/8/12, St. Paul Pioneer Press, 4/26/12, Palm Beach Post, 5/12/13, Pittsburgh Tribune Review 11/13/13) since her tenure began.

In an era where news media wax rhapsodic over new technologies and fall over each other to report consumer-oriented “news you can use,” the Smart Grid’s pending debut should be a major story. It’s not. Indeed, almost the entire US population remains in the dark about this major technological development that will profoundly impact their lives.

When one more closely examines the implications and realities of the federally-approved Smart Grid scheme—from the adverse health effects of electromagnetic radiation to surveillance and energy rationing—there should be little wonder why this degree of silence surrounds its implementation. Such a technocratic system would never be freely accepted if subject to an open exchange and referendum.


[1] “Fact Sheet: Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007,”, December 19, 2007.

[2] “ENERGY STAR is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) voluntary program that helps businesses and individuals save money and protect our climate through superior energy efficiency. The ENERGY STAR program was established by EPA in 1992, under the authority of the Clean Air Act Section 103(g).”

[3] Jeff St. John, “Who’s Got the Most Smart Grid Patents?”, August 5, 2014.

[4] The word “deployment,” commonly used in government and technical plans for the Smart Grid’s launch, is a military term. From the Latin displicāre, “to scatter,” the modern definition is “[t]o distribute (persons or forces) systematically or strategically.”

[5] Public Law 110-140, Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, Title XIII, Section 1301, Washington DC: United States Congress, December 19,2007.

[6] “President Obama Announces $3.4 Billion Investment to Spur Transition to Smart Energy Grid,”, October 27, 2009.

[7] Jon Chavez, “Expert Sees $2 Trillion Benefit For Country in Smart Grid,” Toledo Blade, January 16 2013.

[8] In contrast, seven times as many articles (78) appeared in law journals over the same seven year period.

[9] Clay Risen, “”The 8th Annual Year in Ideas; Smart Grids,” New York Times, December 14, 2008.

[10] Jaime North, “Devices Will Soon Monitor Themselves,” Daily Item, October 4, 2008.

RF/microwave emissions from Smart Meters-Massachusetts network details are redacted in DPU docu-ments.

Here more evidence of the collusion and corruption in our State and Federal Governments.   Why are the RF/microwave emissions redacted?  There is only one logical answer to this.  The emissions are in violation of the limits.  We must demand an investigation of independent contractors to measure the radiation in our environment, also demanding complete transparency of the documents and those withheld…..They are about money; we are about looking out for our safety and wellbeing.  They do not care about anything but power and control……. Sandaura

3.3- Mesh/local/neighborhood network (LAN)

Each ‘smart’ meter wirelessly relays data upstream and down-stream via the next home’s meter and the next and the next and so on for many hundreds or thousands of meters to one home’s often camouflaged collector/repeater/cell relay meter, then to a router then to the cell-like tower. Plus, each meter continually pulses 24/7/365 to maintain the network: 14,000 to 190,000 times per day or 132 times per minute.

– A home’s location up or downstream is a factor in RF/microwave emissions.

– Industry literature often cites data transmissions as “x times” or a percentage per day omitting tens of thousands of network transmissions and neglecting to cite increased emission data for the many collector/repeater cell relay meters.

– Massachusetts network details are redacted in DPU docu-ments.

– When data is transmitted from a neighborhood home’s col-lector/repeater/cell relay it goes to National Grid’s ‘concentra-tor,” ‘aggregator’, Connected Grid Router (CGR) then to the cell-like tower, then to National Grid and third parties.

Advanced metering interference

Muhammad Aqeel Imtiaz and Farrukh Aftab

Department of electrical engineering and Technology

Superior university

University campus, main raiwand road, Lahore.


RF/microwave emissions.

– Industry literature often cites data transmissions as “x times” or a percentage per day omitting tens of thousands of network transmissions and neglecting to cite increased emission data for the many collector/repeater cell relay meters.

Massachusetts network details are redacted in DPU docu-ments.

– When data is transmitted from a neighborhood home’s col-lector/repeater/cell relay it goes to National Grid’s ‘concentra-tor,” ‘aggregator’, Connected Grid Router (CGR) then to the cell-like tower, then to National Grid and third parties.

Between 1970 and 2000,automatic meter reading was added to electronic meters and it was a great achievement since it could send the data in near time it could provide one–way communication. however this achievement was also not enough because of great evolutions in other teachnologies power sector should introduce advanced metering technology.This limitation was overcome by the introduction of smart meters which can pro-vide two-way meters with two-way communication can measure all the electrical parameters like electronic meter and communicate data in a meaningfull way.The consumer is updated with electricity usage,cost,tariffs and other notifications sent by the utility.Smart meters have different functionality to manage the end user loads and run them in an optimal way to reduce the electricity bill as well as to conserve the energy.For future aspects of Advanced meter-ing interference many researchers and developers are trying to add new features to smart meters and try to come up with best solutions for energy affeiciency,conservation and demand management.Smart meters are still evolving and many gov-ernments and organizations are trying to standardize them.[4]


AMR* analog (Automatic/Automated Me-ter Reading) type meters look like old-fashioned electrome-chanical meters but contain one wireless transmitter (white arrow, left) and have an FCC ID**. Many homeowners assume AMRs still emit a signal once per month when ‘woken up’ by the roving utility truck. National Grid reports that 92% of its Massachusetts electric meters are AMR. Most or all continu-ally emit RF/ microwaves 24/7/365, many times per minute or hour. Data however, may only be collected once per month by a truck or via fixed wireless network. AMR’s in National Grid territory will function for 20 more years.

AMR* digital meters’ one transmitter emits microwave/RF pulses, many times per minute or hour. They have an FCC ID**. Data is collected by a drive-by truck or by fixed network infrastructure.

A smart meter is usually an electronic device that records con-sumption of electric energy in intervals of an hour or less and communicates that information at least daily back to the utility for monitoring and billing purposes.[7] Smart meters enable two-way communication between the meter and the central system. Unlike home energy monitors, smart meters can gather data for remote reporting. Such an advanced meter-ing infrastructure (AMI) differs from traditional automatic meter reading (AMR) in that it enables two-way communica-tions with the meter.

4- Conclusion

The installation of wireless ‘smart meters’ in California can produce significantly high levels of radiofrequency radiation (RF) depending on many factors (location of meter(s) in rela-tion to occupied or usable space, duty cycle or frequency of RF transmissions, reflection and re-radiation of RF, multiple meters at one location, collector meters, etc).

Power transmitters that will relay information from appliances inside buildings with wireless smart meters produce high, lo-calized RF pulses. Any appliance that contains a power transmitter (for example, dishwashers, washers, dryers, ranges and ovens, convection ovens, microwave ovens, flash water heaters, refrigerators, etc) will create another ‘layer of RF sig-nals’ that may cumulatively increase RF exposures from the smart meter(s).

The following problems should be solved for futher fruitfull achievements.

• Overcharging, accuracy, and the Structure Group report

• Reliability questions

• Privacy invasion

• Fires and electrical problems

• Health problems

• Switching mode power supply (SMPS)

• Interference with electronics

• Interference with medical devices

• Hacking/cyber-security

• Remote disconnection of power

• Vulnerability of nuclear facilities

• Vulnerability to electromagnetic pulses (EMPs)

• No utility liability for hacked dat

Click to access Advanced%20metering.pdf

DETROIT-Court affirms decisions in DTE meter opt-out program


Associated Press 6:16 p.m. EST February 21, 2015