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New White Paper Co-Authored by Hogan’s Christopher Wolf Outlines How “SmartPrivacy” Concept Can be Used to Address the Privacy Concerns Raised by the Smart Grid

A new white paper, Smart Privacy for the Smart Grid: Embedding Privacy in the Design of Electricity Conservation,  highlights the importance of building privacy into new "Smart Grid" technologies from the outset.  The paper is co-authored by the Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, Dr. Ann Cavoukian, Jules Polonetsky and Hogan’s Christopher Wolf.  Wolf and Polonetsky co-authored the paper in their capacity as co-chairs of the Washington-based Future of Privacy Forum.

“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,” said Christopher Wolf. “There will be major concerns if consumer-focused principles of transparency and control are not treated as essential design principles, from beginning to end.”

“The smart grid will provide benefits for the economy and the environment and could mean savings for individual consumers,” said Jules Polonetsky. “But the success of the grid will be completely dependent on consumers trusting that their data is being handled responsibly. If companies do not get privacy right from the start, billions will have been spent in vain.

The paper outlines Commissioner Dr.Ann Cavoukian’s SmartPrivacy concept and how it can be used to address the privacy concerns raised by the Smart Grid.   

SmartPrivacy represents a broad arsenal of protections, encapsulating everything necessary to ensure that all of the personal information held by an organization is appropriately managed. These include: privacy laws, regulation and independent oversight; accountability and transparency; audit and assessment; market forces, education and awareness; data security; and fair information practices. But all of these are built upon the foundation of Privacy by Design.

“While each of these elements is important, Privacy by Design – where privacy is built in from the outset as the default function – is the key,” said the Commissioner. 

“Once energy consumption information flows outside of the home, consumers may have questions such as: Who will have access to this intimate data, and for what purposes? Will I be notified? What are the obligations of companies making smart appliances and Smart Grid systems to build in privacy? How will I be able to control the details of my daily life in the future?”

Organizations involved with the Smart Grid, responsible for the processing of customers’ personal information, must be able to respond to these questions, said the Commissioner. “And the best response is to ensure that privacy is embedded into the design of the Smart Grid, from start to finish – end to end.” 

As the Smart Grid is only in its early stages of development, now is the perfect time to build SmartPrivacy into the Smart Grid, stressed Commissioner Cavoukian. “Consumer control of electricity consumption and consumer control of their personal information must go hand-in-hand. Doing so will ensure that consumer confidence and trust is gained, and that participation in the Smart Grid contributes to the vision of creating a more efficient and environmentally friendly electrical grid, as well as one that is protective of privacy. This will result in a positive sum (win/win) outcome, where both environmental efficiency and privacy may co-exist. We must reject the traditional zero-sum approach where we are expected to choose one interest over another – you can, and must, have both.”