Posts filed under ‘consumer protection’

How NOT to do data privacy: Lesson from LinkedIn

Many people use LinkedIn as a professional social network. But how many of us knew that, in June, LinkedIn decided to automatically include users’ names and photos in ads on the site?

Such a “social advertising” strategy can misleadingly imply personal endorsements by people you know, and be construed as a privacy invasion. That’s why many LinkedIn users have been complaining loudly and publicly about this practice — which only made the company look even worse.

In response, last week LinkedIn backtracked a bit. But the damage to the company’s reputation has been done, and it’s significant.

This incident is an excellent example of how any company that gathers customer data — including utilities rolling out smart meters — should not handle privacy.

Full post: LinkedIn shows how NOT to do data privacy

August 15, 2011 at 6:59 pm

UK: Ofgem seeks to protect consumers who switch to smart meters

In the UK, early-mover energy retailers* are already installing smart meters ahead of the government’s mandated rollout. Since smart meters can be remotely disconnected or switched into prepayment mode — and since currently 20% of UK consumers prepay their electricity purchases — consumer protection is a top priority.

Here’s how UK energy regulator Ofgem is ensuring consumer protection…

Full post by Alicia Carrasco: UK: Ofgem seeks to protect consumers who switch to smart meters

August 10, 2011 at 4:22 pm

Privacy and the smart grid: State attorneys general call for transparency, consumer education

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of taking breakfast with four state attorneys general: Beau Biden (DE), Steve Bullock (MT), Roy Cooper (NC), and Kamala Harris (CA). I asked them about data privacy in the context of smart meters and smart grids.

General Biden (yes, this is how they are formally addressed) focused on transparency. “The key issue is whose hands does the data get into? Transparency is critical. Consumers want to know what is being done with their data…”

Full post: Smart grid data privacy: State attorneys general call for transparency, consumer education

July 28, 2011 at 8:05 am

Maine PUC allows customers to opt out of smart meters

Yesterday the Maine Public Utilities Commission decided to allow customers to opt out of getting smart meters. This is an unwelcome precedent.

I’ve written before about why allowing utility customers to opt out of getting smart meters is bad policy, although it’s understandable why a public utility commission may allow it. Here’s how this decision will probably affect Maine…

Full story: Smart meters in Maine: PUC allows customers to opt out

May 18, 2011 at 9:53 pm

Smart meters and the news: How USA Today feeds fear, misses context

On March 9 USA Today published this story: Could smart meters be a dumb idea? It reports — as if it were fresh news — customer complaints in Portland, Maine; Dallas, Texas; and even Bakersfield, California.

This story misses the mark on two important facts:

  1. The number of US installed smart meters is actually over 18 million. USA Today story reported a 3 million DOE figure, which is merely those subsidized by DOE grants (as I noted last year).
  2. USA Today incorrectly claimed that a customer lawsuit halted smart meter installations in Bakersfield.

My biggest concern about this story — and a similar NY Times story published last month — is their potential to sow public confusion by presenting all sources as equal…

Full story: Smart meters and the news: In the absence of information, people fear the worst


March 10, 2011 at 12:16 am

Are new privacy regulations are needed for smart meter data?

Lately, there has been much discussion of protecting the privacy of data collected via smart meters. For example, the upcoming California Public Utility Commission smart grid proceeding is expected to include a draft ruling on this issue.

This discussion is part of a broader societal discussion of privacy, driven largely by the rise of social networking services — such as Facebook, which has sparked high-profile privacy concerns…

Full story: Smart meter data: Why new privacy regulations are not needed

February 24, 2011 at 11:07 pm

Mother Jones: More balanced on smart meters than the New York Times?

Last week we observed that the New York Times had some puzzling coverage of smart meter issues, making opponents’ concerns appear larger than the consensus of consumers and scientists on the matter.

In contrast, a more balanced exploration of this topic came recently from Mother Jones — a news venue well-known for often aggressive investigative reporting…

Full story: Mother Jones: More balanced than the New York Times on smart meters?

February 7, 2011 at 9:26 pm

Where’s the beef? NY Times covers smart meter fears

Yesterday, the New York Times published an article with this provocative headline: New Electricity Meters Stir Fears. It’s about the current controversy over PG&E smart meters in Northern California.

I am puzzled by the Times’ treatment of this issue. On the one hand, we must respect the genuine concerns of people about smart meter RF emissions and data privacy. But on the other hand, these people are a tiny minority — and there is a large body of scientific evidence that contradicts their claims…

Full story: NY Times covers smart meter fears: Where’s the beef?

February 1, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Smart meter health risks? “No clear evidence” found by California Council on Sci & Tech

In California and elsewhere some people oppose smart meter rollouts, claiming these devices pose human health risks. A new study just released by the California Council on Science and Technology (compiled at the request of that state’s legislature) found no evidence of such risks…

Full story: Calif. Council on Sci & Tech finds “No clear evidence that additional standards are needed to protect the public from smart meters.”

January 14, 2011 at 8:05 pm

Are smart meter RF emissions a safety risk?

A small but vocal number of consumers in Northern California and Maine claim that smart meters present a health risk due to their radio frequency (RF) emissions.

It’s important to respect the views of people who are concerned with the health effects of new technologies. However, in this case, decades of scientific evidence indicates that the type of RF emissions from smart meters are highly unlikely to affect human health…

Full story: RF emissions: Are smart meters a safety risk?

December 10, 2010 at 8:30 pm

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