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Smart meter data – A guide to your rights and choices

By Energy Company Numbers on January 31, 2017 in Help and advice
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If you are concerned about how your data will be used with smart meters, read on.

There’s no doubting that smart meters are poised to bring a huge number of benefits to our lives. Whether it’s the end of estimated bills and nosy meter men, being able to see how much energy you’re using or just the ability to point out to your kids how much energy leaving the TV on uses, smart meters are an exciting addition to our homes.

The government has shown a strong commitment to smart meters, legislating that every home in the UK has to have one by 2020. Whilst that’s cause for celebration, we should always approach these things with caution – especially if they transmit large amounts of our data.

So, with more smart meters being installed every day, what do you need to know about your rights and choices? Join us as we explain.

The basics of smart meter security

By creating a direct link between your homes energy system and your energy provider, smart meters (by necessity) regularly transmit your data back to your supplier. If this data were unsecured, it would mean that almost anyone with the right skills could view critical data about your energy usage. However, that’s not the case.

Related: Smart Meters and Data Protection

All data sent from your smart meter is encrypted, which means that it can only be decrypted with the right key. Of course, only your energy company has that key, which in theory should keep your data safe from prying eyes.

However, recent events in Spain should act as a cautionary tale. Researchers found a vulnerability in their security which meant those with the right knowledge could view Spain’s grid data – an obviously dangerous scenario. Even here in the UK the security of our own smart meters has been questioned as GCHQ paused the rollout to issue a security warning regarding encryption.

With that loophole closed, however, we shouldn’t have too much to worry about. Here in the UK we’re using a stronger form of encryption than our Spanish friends, and that should prove enough of a deterrent to keep away those with nefarious intentions. Indeed, only authorised members of staff within your energy provider will be able to access your data.

The general consensus among industry experts in 2017 regarding smart meters and data is that you can trust your supplier with your data. However, you do have certain rights with regards to how your data is collected and used, which we will look into below.

What choices can I make?

If you’re uneasy about the amount of data being sent back to your energy provider, you can make the following choices:

– How often your data is sent back to your supplier. Whether that means every 30 minutes, every hour, every day or every week, you can set that.

– Whether your supplier shares details about your energy consumption with other organisations

– Whether your supplier can use your meter readings for sales and marketing purposes

Once made, these choices can be altered at any point should you change your mind.

What rights do I have?

There are no specific rights you have related to smart meters and data protection, but you do have the right to ask your energy supplier not to use your usage data for selling you products or services. You can also ask them not to send you marketing or sales messages through your In-Home Display.

Finally, you can ask your energy supplier to send you any information they have on file about you.

Further reading: What are smart meters?

About the Author

Energy Company NumbersView all posts by Energy Company Numbers
Energy Company Numbers is a telephone number directory service dedicated to helping UK consumers keep in touch with their energy suppliers.

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