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Rights group reveals Irish government’s “smart” energy meter program is collecting more data than necessary

The data grab of smart meter tech.
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Privacy campaign group Digital Rights Ireland has called for an investigation into the data collection on electricity use through smart meters by ESB Networks. The group claims that the semi-State company is collecting more data than it requires for billing purposes and customers are not aware of the data collection.

Installation of the smart meters started in 2020 and have been installed in more than 800,000 homes. The aim is to replace all meters with smart meters by 2024.

Last month, ESB Networks reconfigured the smart meters to collect detailed data every half-an-hour. The data is stored in a centralized database. DRI claims customers have not consented to the data collection. The group is also questioning the legal basis for the data collection, and is calling on privacy watchdog Data Protection Commission (DPC) to investigate.

A spokesperson for ESB Networks said it is confident that the smart meter program was “being delivered in compliance with applicable data privacy laws.” The company added it had “an obligation” under EU law to “make granular consumption and export data, already recorded on smart meters, readily available to customers.”

The company insisted that it was transparent about the data collection, saying that the information about the program was available on its website, including a data protection impact assessment. It added that the personal data collected is “safe and secure,” The Irish Times reported.

DRI said that the data protection impact assessment did not address the proportionality and necessity of the data collected. The group noted that ESB Networks had told customers that only the minimum data required for billing would be collected.

“ESB Networks has now done exactly what it promised it would not do,” said TJ McIntyre, chairman of Digital Rights Ireland. “ESB Networks is harvesting detailed half-hour consumption data that is not required for billing, without any consent from customers. There is no basis in law for this data collection.”

The DPC said that ESB Networks said that it was “collecting interval data necessary to comply with the requirements of the EU Clean Energy Package.”

The watchdog said it was reviewing the law which ESB Networks was using to justify the data collection “to establish if this imposes an actual legal obligation on ESB Networks, as contended by it, or whether ESB Networks is required only to make this interval data available on request of customers or on demand.”

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