I just heard a segment of Living on Earth in which Kevin Doran described the privacy concerns raised by smart meters that read the energy signatures of your appliances and report back to the grid. For example, an insurance company might see that you routinely come home and turn on lights at 2AM when the bars close.

Fair enough. But these kinds of stories always seem to end like this:

And as policy makers figure out how to approach this entire new terrain, they need to be cognizant of the fact that there are serious privacy concerns out there, and much of the legislation and statutes that deal with privacy have no idea what to do when it comes to the smart grid because this is so new.

Yes, the smart meter will introduce a new capability, and yes, it will raise issues. But that doesn’t mean that we have to start from scratch every time with “no idea what do to” about those issues. There are core principles; they don’t change; we can use them to navigate the terrain of the new.

There’s no mystery about how this should work. My smart meter will relay data that I own to a service in the cloud that I control. I’ll tell my service who can access my data, and on what terms. We don’t need new rules for every new scenario. We just need one basic rule about data ownership. And then, of course, a data services ecosystem in which we can apply the rule. That’s the goal, and this kind of reporting isn’t helping us get there.

I wish mainstream media’s tech coverage would stop being dazzled by shiny new things and start helping our society learn to think like the web.