Smart meters and Alfred Sant – Carmel Cacopardo

Smart meters have been advertised as being required for ARMS Limited to be able to issue bills for our water and electricity consumption in real time.  Differential billing depending on consumption patterns would now be possible. Visits by a meter reader will no longer be necessary.

The smart meters, we were told, is all positive for the consumer.

Through the smart meters ARMS Limited, Enemalta Corporation and the Water Services Corporation collect information on our households and businesses continuously.  They know what we do in the privacy of our homes. They know when we are in, whether we are on holiday or whether we are at work. They know when we switch on our television. When we switch on our air conditioner.

This is a major issue of privacy. We need to be assured that the safeguards protecting access to this massive data is in place and that it functions properly.

Unfortunately there have been a number of instances in the public sector where substantial doubts have arisen on the non-functioning of data protection safeguards. I will give two examples.

Early in 2008 just before the general elections a direct mail shot was sent by the PN Leader Dr Lawrence Gonzi  to employees in key sectors of industry. One such worker who received this mail shot was identified specifically in the letter sent and signed by Dr Gonzi as an employee in the pharmaceutical sector. Now as far as I am aware the information is available in the databases of ETC (Employment and Training Corporation) and the Inland Revenue Department. As it is improbable that the employer made his list of employees available to a political party it is logical to conclude that the PN had access to sensitive information notwithstanding  data protection safeguards.

The second example concerns former Labour Leader Alfred Sant who on the eve of the 2008 elections had detailed information on his state of health splashed on the media. The source of such information could only be the medical file held at Mater Dei Hospital. This information ought to have been protected in terms of data protection legislation as well as medical ethical standards. Yet it was not.

Faced with the above who can ensure that data protection standards are applied as it seems that the Data Protection Commissioner was ineffective.  The Smart meters will track much more then energy and water consumption unless the Data Protection Commissioner is wide awake!

This was first published in on Friday 21st September 2012