ORG warns about the UK government's smart data practices, again!

08/05/2024 | Open Rights Group

An article by the Open Rights Group highlights an ongoing pursuit by the UK government to access and monitor smart meter energy consumption data. 

In October 2022, ORG exposed government plans to access smart meter data. Then, in July 2023, following an ORG campaign, the government backtracked on its plans, reducing the frequency with which such data would be collected.

However, it seems that everything is not as originally claimed. The ORG now reports that the government updated its privacy policy to reflect that "energy consumption data is being collected more frequently than monthly," thus reverting the improvements it had previously made. ORG argue that by collecting data more regularly, it is possible that the government is able to determine "which home appliances are being used and at what time, thus revealing lifestyle choices and potentially sensitive information about targeted households."

The ORG article uses this example to emphasise several issues relating to the government's proposed Data Protection and Digital Information (DPDI) Bill, along with the ICO's approach to public sector enforcement.

In this instance, the "smart meter saga" underscores the consequences of its approach: after pledging not to share smart meter data, they began collecting it for fraud detection. When pressured, the government backed down, only to revert to its original plan as soon as the coast was clear. 

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