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Appeals Court Finds Smart Meters Trigger Constitutional Scrutiny, But Data Logging is Reasonable

A federal appeals court has ruled that smart meters perform a "search" under the Fourth Amendment but found that their collection of household energy data is "reasonable." Smart meters periodically transmit information to public utilities about home energy consumption, which can reveal personal behavior patterns and enable real-time surveillance. "The ever-accelerating pace of technological development carries serious privacy implications," the Seventh Circuit wrote. "Smart meters are no exception." The Court held that the searches performed by smart meters are justified by cost reductions and service improvements, but the Court warned that "our conclusion could change" if the meters sent data more frequently or if law enforcement were given easier access to the data. EPIC has long warned about the privacy implications of the smart grid and filed an amicus brief in United States v. Carpenter, a recent Supreme Court case that recognized Fourth Amendment protections for cell phone location data.

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