Privacy International (PI) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed an amicus brief in the case of Naperville Smart Meter Awareness v. City of Naperville before the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit.
PI and EFF argue that usage data from smart electricity meters differs quantitatively and qualitatively from analog electricity meters, revealing intimate details regarding a person’s private in-home activities.
PI and EFF argue that an Illinois District Court’s decision that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in aggregate electrical usage data, regardless of whether the data is collected by a smart meter or analog meter, is flawed and that the Court’s decision should be reversed.
Patterns generated by smart meter data can be used to infer how many individuals reside in a home as well as their activities, habits, and rhythms of movement, including when they leave their home and when they go to sleep.
Smart meter data can even reveal which appliances are functioning at a given time, allowing one to infer, for example, when residents consume meals, take showers, watch TV, and use exercise equipment.
Privacy International Legal Officer Scarlet Kim said: “The transition from analog meters to smart meters — from a single monthly reading of energy usage to thousands of data points per month — transforms a blunt record of kilowatts consumed into a deeply personal snapshot of a person’s life. The data protection and privacy implications of collecting this data are not confined to Illinois but resonate around the world.”
Electronic Frontier Foundation Staff Attorney Jamie Williams said: “The lower court made false assumptions about how smart meter technology works, and its decision is a threat to the privacy of the 57 million and counting American homes with this new technology.”