The European data protection supervisor (EDPS) has warned that the deployment of smart meters across member states threatens to create an intrusive system of mass monitoring unless robust safeguards are introduced.
Under European plans, smart meters will be deployed in the majority of homes and business premises within the next eight years.
That system should bring a wealth of benefits, such as reduced energy bills, but it opens a potential Pandora's box given the volume of personal data it will generate, warned Giovanni Buttarelli, the assistant European data protection supervisor
“The EDPS calls on the Commission to assess whether further legislative action is necessary at EU level to ensure adequate protection of personal data for the roll-out of smart metering,” he said.
Smart meters could be used to determine whether people were at home or on holiday, whether they use devices such as child monitors or how they spend their free time, Buttarelli warned.
He called on the EC to ensure users were fully informed about the information being kept about them following the deployment of smart meters. Energy companies should also explain to their customers the reasons for using various analysis algorithms on the smart meter data.
IT heavyweights such as IBM have been at the forefront of smart meter deployments in the UK, spotting the potential for a nation-wide roll out to become on the largest technology projects in the country.
So-called smart meters provide a means for energy firms to measure customers' usage patterns in details - potentially enabling them to better forecast demand and offer customers the opportunity to cut their bills.
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