Protecting Energy Privacy Across the Public/Private Divide

65 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2020

Date Written: August 2, 2020


Energy-usage monitoring can expose much of what takes place inside people’s homes and offices. As the “smart home” revolution continues, this data will only become more revealing. Though this information is essential for the development of the smart electric grid, it is also useful to a variety of others: law enforcement, energy-efficiency experts, and marketers. At present, this data enjoys little Fourth Amendment or statutory protection. This was not previously a problem because the information was historically not overly sensitive. Now that utilities are collecting more than two thousand times as much information about households as they were before, however, more protection is needed. This Article traces the rise of “smart meter” technology, evaluates the Fourth Amendment implications of law enforcement access to smart meter records, and proposes a statutory framework to govern public and private access to such data. It also reflects on the growing challenge of protecting digital privacy in an era where once undetectable information is now readily and involuntarily shared with third parties and on the Fourth Amendment implications of failing to restrict private use of sensitive data.

Keywords: K10, K30

JEL Classification: privacy, energy law, smart meters

Suggested Citation

Kugler, Matthew B. and Hurley, Meredith, Protecting Energy Privacy Across the Public/Private Divide (August 2, 2020). Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 20-19, 72 Florida Law Review 451 (2020), Available at SSRN:

Matthew B. Kugler (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

Meredith Hurley

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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