Industry leaders, commissioner collaborate on smart grid privacy

San Diego, February 2, 2011 — Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner, Dr. Ann Cavoukian, along with Hydro One, GE, IBM and Telvent, released a report that shows the way forward for utilities working to embed privacy into the emerging smart grid.

The new guidance document, which is based on a smart grid project in Owen Sound in Ontario, Canada, demonstrates how the principles of Privacy by Design may be operationalized as a foundational requirement in emerging smart grid systems.

Practical in scope, it shows how Privacy by Design works, from the ground up. The paper, titled "Operationalizing Privacy by Design: The Ontario Smart Grid Case Study," is available at this website, along with a backgrounder.

“Smart grid technologies have the potential to collect extremely detailed information about energy consumption in the home, which can lead to the unwelcome profiling of individuals,” Commissioner Cavoukian told a crowd in San Diego at DistribuTECH, the utility industry's leading smart grid conference and exposition. “The time to build privacy into the systems involved is now, while the smart grid is still in its infancy.”

The approach outlined in the report sets the gold standard for utilities and vendors around the world as they work to build consumer confidence into the smart grid by, among other things, protecting personal information that may be collected or used through smart grid technologies.

It clarifies three domains of the smart grid: 1.) the grid domain, which relates to systems and processes to manage the power network; 2.) the customer domain, which incorporates all the devices in the consumer’s home or business; and 3.) the services domain, which includes customer service functions such as billing and demand management programs.

The report shows how personal information can be limited to the domains where it is relevant, and outlines examples of specific design requirements for minimizing and protecting personal information while achieving full system functionality — positive sum, not zero sum.

“Privacy is the foundation of a trusting relationship with our customers,” says Laura Formusa, President and CEO, Hydro One Inc. “By considering privacy at the inception stage of creating the smart grid, we can ensure our customer’s faith in the technology, in the tools and in our company.”

“Consumer acceptance is key to the success of smart grid,” said John McDonald, Director, Technical Strategy & Policy Development, GE Energy — Digital Energy. "Privacy is a top concern among consumers. The Privacy by Design solutions help utilities ensure privacy for their customers, ultimately driving the smart grid forward, increasing the speed at which we all benefit from a more efficient, reliable and sustainable energy infrastructure.”

"Countries around the world are embarking on modernizing their electricity systems to build a cleaner and more secure energy future," said Guido Bartels, General Manager of IBM's Energy & Utilities Industry and Chairman of the Global Smart Grid Federation. "With almost a decade of leadership in designing complex systems and leveraging the Privacy by Design principles and IBM’s Secure by Design concepts, we are eager to work with other leaders to ensure that a smarter and more secure grid becomes a reality for all."

Telvent is proud to partner with the Commissioner Cavoukian and others to lay the foundation for future smart grid privacy efforts,” said Ignacio Gonzalez, Telvent CEO. “We are committed to helping utilities balance efficient operations while ensuring the privacy of their customers, and setting this standard is critical for smoothly advancing the implementation of smart grid networks.”

The report is the third in a suite of papers on protecting privacy in the smart grid, developed by Ontario’s Privacy Commissioner, in collaboration with key industry and technology leaders.

Privacy by Design (PbD) is an approach developed by Commissioner Cavoukian and widely adopted globally by a growing number of organizations and jurisdictions. It prescribes that privacy be embedded directly into the design and operation of various technologies, business processes, and networked infrastructure.

Instead of treating privacy as an after-thought, “bolting it on after the fact,” PbD is proactive and preventative in nature — a highly effective approach in today’s world of increasingly interconnected technologies and extensive data collection.

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