Smart Meter Security and Your Privacy
What BC Hydro collects, and how that information is protected
In December 2011, B.C.’s Information and Privacy Commissioner released a report about the Smart Metering Program’s compliance with B.C.’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
The B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner’s report confirms that BC Hydro has taken the right steps to protect its customers’ information throughout the planning and implementation of the Smart Metering Program.
Which personal information is collected?
BC Hydro collects personal information like your name, address, and identity validation information in order to establish and maintain your account and to provide electricity services.
BC Hydro collects your hourly consumption information, which is also treated as personal in nature, for billing purposes and to ensure the effective running of the electricity grid. Sometimes, BC Hydro will use your contact information to communicate service-related information to you, or seek your opinions about your service satisfaction.
All customer information collected by your new meter will be handled in accordance with B.C.’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. This Act prohibits BC Hydro from selling or disclosing personal information to third parties, unless authorized to do so by law.
BC Hydro’s mandate to provide electricity services is derived from the Hydro and Power Authority Act and regulated by the BC Utilities Commission under the Utilities Commission Act. BC Hydro’s installation of the new meters, and its collection of the aforementioned information, is mandated under Section 17 of the Clean Energy Act.
Please see the frequently asked questions section below. You can also call 1 800 224 9376, email firstname.lastname@example.org or write c/o Smart Metering Program, BC Hydro & Power Authority, P.O. Box 9501, Vancouver, B.C. V6B 4N1.
Common questions related to smart meters and privacy
BC Hydro has been collecting electricity consumption information, and protecting the privacy of your personal information, for 50 years.
We continue to take the responsibility of protecting the privacy and security of your personal information very seriously and that is why we are consulting with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia to ensure we meet legislated privacy standards, and that appropriate privacy and security measures are built into the entire smart grid system.
Smart meters cannot identify which appliances you are using, or when you are using them. Your meter will measure and report the aggregate amount of energy used or generated in your home on an hourly-basis.
In total, this is the same electricity consumption data that BC Hydro has always collected, just collected more frequently.
Smart meters record the total aggregated electricity usage on an hourly basis; smart meters do not capture real-time usage.
Many appliances turn on and off automatically, such as your refrigerator or baseboard heater, while others constantly consume a low level of energy such as digital alarm clocks. Due to the automated nature of many appliances' electricity consumption, and the fact that smart meters only record total usage on an hourly basis, BC Hydro cannot identify or infer your activities within your own home.
BC Hydro uses the collective information from all customers to effectively manage electricity resources and plan for electricity transmission systems to ensure high quality power is available to you whenever you need it. Below is a visualization of a house's consumption data BC Hydro collects over a week.
The information collected by smart meters will be handled in accordance with British Columbia's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act – just as it is now with your existing meter.
As part of our 'privacy-by-design' development approach, BC Hydro's smart meter will only contain measured consumption information and not any customer's personal identifiers, such as name, address, account numbers, or others. Once the smart meter data has been securely transmitted to BC Hydro's protected data centre, your electricity consumption information is then aligned with your account information to enable customer billing.
All of the information BC Hydro collects will continue to be handled in accordance with British Columbia's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. BC Hydro is prohibited from disclosing personal information to third parties unless required by law. In the case of customer service inquiries, validation of the customer's account is required and access by our customer service representatives will be logged to ensure adherence to privacy policies.
Smart meter data is protected through a specially designed communication protocol that controls access using security certificates (asymmetric-key cryptography) and scrambles data using encryption (symmetric-key cryptography). The two cryptographic systems work together to ensure that the data remains secure and the communication channels cannot be infiltrated by external entities.
Security industry professionals recognize the industry best practice of using multiple layers of security is the best way to ensure there are no single points of vulnerability from either a security or privacy perspective.
BC Hydro's smart meters use multiple layers of security, starting with the data being encrypted, transmitted through secure channels, processed in secured facilities, and managed by rigorous access control policies.
- 7 Foundational Principles of Privacy by Design Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner [PDF, 221 KB]
- Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)
- B.C. Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner
- Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC)
- Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC)
- Public-Key Cryptography
- Role-Base Access Control (RBAC)
- 7628 Guideline for Smart Grid Cyber Security, NIST Interagency Reports–Computer Security Resource Center