Privacy International & the Electronic Frontier Foundation Raise Concerns About Privacy Implications of Smart Meters

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.”

For more information: https://smartgridawareness.org/2017/02/28/privacy-advocacy-groups-amicus-brief-on-smart-meters/

“Smart” Meters & Surveillance: What Are Your Rights Worth?

Take Back Your Power film is now available to watch online!
Click here to Watch Take Back Your Power

Here’s their latest trailer on surveillance.

Smart meter surveillance use confirmed

SpyToday the San Francisco Chronicle confirmed utilities are giving customers smart meter data to the government and third parties.  Reporter David Baker writes, “Phone records and e-mail aren’t the only kinds of personal data that government agencies can collect on Americans.  They can look at your home’s energy use, too.  And that information can be revealing.”

Smart meters are a surveillance tool, best described by Jerry Day in this video– which has reached over 1.7 million viewers.  And now we have proof that if you have a smart meters on your home, your privacy: what you do in your home, or if your not home, when you cook, watch TV, or  if you get up in the middle of the night is provided to third parties for “legal” purposes when requested.  The smart meter data when analyzed  shows a detailed pattern of your life.

The Northern California ACLU writes, “transparency reports filed by the California utilities companies and obtained by the ACLU of California show that a significant amount of data about the energy use of Californians is also ending up in the hands of third parties.  In 2012, a single California utility company, San Diego Gas & Electric, disclosed the smart meter energy records of over 4,000 of its customers. “

The “privacy” rules, adopted by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) allows disclosure of smart meter data for legal purposes, or pursuant to situations of imminent threat to life or property.  San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) disclosed the records of 4,062 customers. PG&E disclosed 86 and SCE disclosed one.

“In 4,000 of those [SDGE] cases, the information was subpoenaed by government agencies, often in drug enforcement cases or efforts to find specific individuals, according to the utility. The other 62 disclosures came as the result of subpoenas in civil lawsuits. Some of the released information focused solely on billing information, account addresses and other data that could be used to locate an individual.” David Baker- SF Chronicle

According to the ACLU “a single legal request can potentially result in the disclosure of millions of customers’ records.”

More: ACLU website.

PG&E fined $390,000 for spying

CPUC logoToday the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved a settlement in its investigation into Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) for spying on anti-Smart Meter groups.  PG&E will be required to pay $390,000 to the state’s General Fund.

This infiltration by PG&E was part of an on-going surveillance program conducted by PG&E and Edelman, a public relations firm PG&E hired in January of 2010 in response to escalating Smart Meter complaints and problems.

As part of this program, the director of the PG&E Smart Meter program, William “Ralph” Devereaux, other PG&E employees and third parties spied on groups with the knowledge of senior PG&E staff.  PG&E employees and senior management exchanged emails insulting and demeaning the members of the anti-SmartMeter groups.  For example, these PG&E customers were referred to “insurgents.”

PG&E coordinated moving an entire Smart Meter deployment yard to derail a non-violent protest and sent an employee to surreptitiously observe and report on the reactions of the protestors, who also transmitted pictures of them to PG&E.  This “spy” expressed his pleasure in observing and taking photos of anti-SmartMeter activists.

ralphDevereux resigned from PG&E in November 2010, after he was caught trying to infiltrate an EMF Safety Network discussion list using the false alias, “Ralph”.  He wrote to Sandi Maurer, moderator of the list, “I live in Oakland where Smart meters have been sweeping across town and wanted to learn more about them and join the conversation to see what I can do to help out here.  Thanks, Ralph”

Maurer’s email program revealed his true identity as William Devereaux. She responded, “Aren’t you the head of the Smart Meter program at PG&E? We’d love your help!…”

CPUC Commissioner Mike Florio said ,“We will not tolerate consumer abuses in any shape or form. We expect our utilities to treat their customers with respect and compassion and engage with their customers in a transparent, ethical, and productive manner.”

More info: PG&E’s spying may cost them

Legal filings in this case: CPUC Investigation of PG&E for Spying I.12-04-010

PG&E “Ralph” Investigation

This week the “Public Version” of the PG&E “Ralph” investigation was released. Some of the names of PG&E employees are redacted, but the majority of the investigation report is there. CPSD Staff Report – Redacted and Attachments to CPSD Staff Report – Redacted  The PG&E Corporate Security memo states,

“My investigation concluded that Devereaux had been dishonest and less than truthful during the entire investigative process.”

Devereaux, aka Ralph, was the head of the PG&E Smart Meter program and he was responsible for understanding and communicating technical RF specifications to PG&E lawyers.

When the Consumer Protection & Safety Division (CPSD) launched their initial investigation PG&E responded with 102 pdf’s of information. PG&E then redacted the pdf’s and gave them to the San Jose Mercury News and to the SF Chronicle. We obtained copies of the redacted pdfs which were the basis of the CPSD report. What’s not included in the CPSD report is whether or not the CPUC was involved, and to what extent they were involved. One email address, which was exposed in an open header was CPUC representative Mazia Zafar.

Screen shot open header of email between Zafar and Devereaux

The CPSD has scheduled a settlement conference for August 30. Will post more on this investigation as it unfolds. Meanwhile can anyone guess the names that are redacted in the “public version” of the CPSD staff report?

For more information on the PG&E investigation see: PG&E’s spying may cost them

PG&E’s spying may cost them

Wiliam “Ralph” Devereaux, was the Senior Director of the PG&E Smart Meter program from October 2009 to November 2010.  Devereaux was the public face for the PG&E Smart Meter program and he appeared at many community meetings throughout PG&E’s service territory. Devereaux resigned from PG&E in November 2010 after he was caught trying to infiltrate an EMF Safety Network online discussion list.  Prior to being caught he had infiltrated other anti smart meter groups, including Stop Smart Meters and posted comments to discredit their views, using the fake name, “Ralph.”

PG&E tried to characterize Devereaux as a rogue employee who acted alone.  But the lengthy investigation by the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) Consumer Protection and Safety Division revealed that Devereaux forwarded emails that he collected using the false identity to his boss and other senior managers at PG&E, including a member of the legal department.  The EMF Safety Network was involved in a legal proceeding at the CPUC against PG&E at the time of PG&E’s spying.

Today the CPUC ordered an investigation into PG&E’s activities to determine if PG&E engaged in deceitful conduct towards consumer groups. The Consumer Protection and Safety Division of the CPUC concluded that:

1. PG&E violated PU Code Section 451 by failing to furnish just and reasonable service when Mr. Devereaux lied about his identity to infiltrate online smart meter discussion groups in order to spy on their activities and discredit their views; and

2. PG&E senior management knew of Mr. Devereaux’s deceit before it was reported in the press and failed to prevent and stop his inappropriate behavior.

The CPUC states, “Mr. Devereaux’s actions are considered the actions of PG&E.” and “PG&E lost the public’s trust when Mr. Devereaux was caught using a false identity to join the EMF Safety Network.”  PG&E is now notified that fines may be imposed in this matter and hearings will be held at the CPUC.

Here’s the email exchange between William Devereaux and Sandi Maurer, who received a notice from Google that manasota99@gmail.com, wanted to join the CA EMF Safety Coalition, an online anti smart meter discussion list. This is the string of emails where the computer outed the real identity of <manasota99@gmail.com>:

On Mon, Oct 4, 2010 at 10:08 AM, EMF Safety Network <EMFSafe@sonic.net> wrote:

Hello,

Please let me know more about your interest in joining the CA EMF Coalition. This discussion group has been set up for county leaders focused on EMF, specifically RF Smart meters.

Please include where you live, what aspect of smart meter issue you are working on and how you came to be involved in this issue. There may be a better group that I can help connect you to, or you may be our next county lead. Please let me know.

Thanks,

Sandi

Sandi Maurer

EMF Safety Network

www.emfsafetynetwork.org

On Nov 4, 2010, at 3:23 PM, William Devereaux wrote:

Hi Sandi,

Sorry for the delay in getting back to you, I’ve been travelling a lot.

I live in Oakland where Smart meters have been sweeping across town and wanted to learn more about them and join the conversation to see what I can do to help out here.

Thanks,

Ralph

From: EMF Safety Network <EMFSafe@sonic.net>

Date: November 4, 2010 7:10:36 PM PDT

To: William Devereaux <manasota99@gmail.com>

Cc: california-emf-safety-coalition <california-emf-safety-coalition@googlegroups.com>

Subject: Re: Your interest in joining the California EMF Coalition?

Hi,

Aren’t you the head of the Smart Meter program at PG&E? We’d love your help!

Can you help us obtain a Smart Meter moratorium ASAP? People who are asking for meters not to be installed are being bullied, signs on meters are being disregarded and the CPUC has received 2000 Smart Meter complaints from Aug 15-Oct 15. We need a moratorium ASAP and the opportunity to be heard at the CPUC.

Your help would be invaluable. Thanks for contacting us.

Sandi

Spy Meters

Jerry Day is a video and media expert and producer from Burbank California. In this short commentary Jerry nails the description of Smart Meter privacy and security risks calling it surveillance. “Your smart meter data shows a vivid profile of your personal living patterns…” and “This is about as big brother as it gets”

At the end of his talk he directs you to a letter you can send .  On his You Tube site, beneath the video is a description tab (click on “show more”) where the letter can be found and copied.