Many people worry about the erosion of privacy in our society given developments in technology, but that loss of privacy may take a quantum leap as electric "smart meters" make it possible for strangers to know on a real-time basis what is occurring in our houses and apartments. Perhaps the greatest concern is that current laws and regulations do not fully protect us from this unprecedented threat to two of our most basic rights—to be left alone in our own homes and to control personal information. Utility companies across the country are replacing conventional electric meters with smart meters designed to be connected to smart appliances and home area networks with the goal of managing, and ultimately reducing, energy usage. These smart meters and their networks can enable not only the utility companies but also third parties and law enforcement agencies to know what appliances and energy-consuming devices we are using throughout the day and night. Because we rely on electricity and public utility commissions continue to grant permission to electric utilities to install smart meters, we cannot escape this intrusion into our homes. Congress has enacted over the past forty years several laws—like the Privacy Act of 1974 and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986—to protect individual privacy, but these laws do not adequately address the threats posed by smart meters. Even the Fourth Amendment might not protect us given how seminal and recent case law requires—yet narrowly construes what qualifies as—a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Cheryl D. Balough,
Privacy Implications of Smart Meters,
Chi.-Kent L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.kentlaw.iit.edu/cklawreview/vol86/iss1/8