Future of Privacy Forum Discusses Smart Privacy for the Smart Grid

Lora Bentley

When I talked to Future of Privacy Forum co-founder Christopher Wolf a month ago, we spoke mostly about the partnership his Washington, D.C.-based think tank has forged with George Washington University's law school to delve into the privacy policy issues that evolving technology presents. He mentioned that the FPF was working in the areas of the smart grid, mobile technology, behavioral profiling and smart networks.


This week, we caught a glimpse of what that smart grid work has been -- or at least part of it. FPF co-founders Wolf and Jules Polonetsky, along with Dr. Ann Cavoukian, the Information and Privacy Commissioner for Ontario, Canada, released a white paper Tuesday, "Smart Privacy for the Smart Grid: Embedding Privacy in the Design of Electricity Conservation," in which they discuss the privacy issues raised by smart grid technology, as well as how to address those issues.


The press release quotes Wolf as follows: "The information collected on a smart grid will form a library of personal information, the mishandling of which could be highly invasive of consumer privacy. There will be major concerns if consumer-focused principles of transparency and control are not treated as essential design principles, from beginning to end."


That's why Smart Privacy should be built into the grid from the beginning, the authors argue. Smart Privacy includes privacy laws, regulation and independent oversight; accountability and transparency; audit and assessment; market forces, education and awareness; data security; and fair information practices. But the key, Cavoukian says, is including these things in the grid's design and teaching those who process customers' personal information that privacy is the default practice.

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