'Smart Grid' Company Demands MuckRock Turn Over Info On Anyone Who Might Have Seen Public Records Docs Involving It
from the because-trade-secrets-and-terrorism dept
Earlier this year, FOIA enthusiast/privacy activist Phil Mocek requested documents from Seattle City Light, the city’s public-owned utility. Mocek was seeking info on the utility’s proposed “smart meter” system, which carried with it some obvious privacy implications.
Pursuant to RCW Ch. 42.56 (Public Records Act), I hereby request the following records:
Plans for, schedules of, policies dictating the performance of, requests for proposals to, contracts for, discussion of, and results of all security audits performed of “smart meter” devices (remotely-addressable electrical meters sometimes referred to as “advanced metering infrastructure”), along with metadata. These devices are designed to replace traditional electric meters. They contain sensors that monitor activities inside subscribers’ premises and automatically communicate information collected by those sensors to machines in remote locations.
The replacement of regular meters with potentially-invasive “smart meters” is due to begin in 2017, despite concerns about health and privacy. As the EFF points out, the power company’s ability to record pinpoint data on customers’ power use may seem innocuous, but it’s not nearly as benign if that information is shared, either purposefully or inadvertently.
It’s not just utilities who will have access to your data. It’s potentially a series of third party corporations including (but not limited to) the utility’s contractors and government agencies. Law enforcement agencies in particular are very keen to be able to see this information. There have already been a lot of cases where utility records have been provided to police who use them to bust marijuana growing operations, and this is simply using the raw energy use data.
Insurance companies and employers might also be interested in your personal energy usage information. Smart meters crack open this door into your private life, making available a huge amount of very personal data.
And that’s not even factoring in the unauthorized uses that smart meters may inadvertently lead to if not secured properly.
Multiple documents were provided to Mocek by Seattle City Light, including documents related to the company awarded the smart meter contract: Landis+Gyr. Landis+Gyr isn’t happy the city of Seattle has made these documents public, so it’s logically responded by suing MuckRock. Yes, it’s also suing the city and the utility, but for some reason has decided MuckRock (and Phil Mocek) should be included in the litigation, despite them only being the recipients of documents Landis+Gyr wants to keep out of the public’s hands.
It’s seeking to have future planned responses from the city involving its “trade secrets” blocked. (Seattle plans to release another batch of documents to Mocek on May 26.) But it’s also making requests pertaining to MuckRock that are both chilling and completely ridiculous. Not only does Landis+Gyr want the documents taken down, but it also wants info on every MuckRock reader who may have viewed them.
[A]fter receiving certain unredacted documents through inadvertent, accidental, or improper release by the City in circumstances demonstrating that Defendants knew or should have known the documents contain sensitive network security information and trade secret information, Mocek nonetheless allowed the information to be posted publicly and in unredacted form on the internet site of Defendant MuckRock.com. Plaintiff Landis+Gyr notified Mocek, MuckRock.com, and Defendant Michael Morisy of the apparent error and requested that Landis+Gyr’s sensitive and proprietary information be removed from the MuckRock.com website and that MuckRock.com provide reasonable assistance to allow Landis+Gyr to identify entities that may have obtained access to is sensitive information.
Michael Morisy refused Landis+Gyr’s first request. Now, it’s upped the ante by petitioning the court to force MuckRock to assist it in the ultimate fool’s errand: the removal of information from the internet.
Immediate relief is needed to require Plaintiffs’ protected information to be immediately taken down from the MuckRocks website, to require MuckRock.com to provide assistance to Plaintiffs to identify and retrieve protected information that may have been downloaded from the MuckRocks website…
If that wasn’t enough, the multinational corporation would like the government to engage in a little prior restraint on its behalf.
[…] enjoin Mocek and MuckRock.com from posting Plaintiffs’ protected and sensitive information in the future.
Landis+Gyr seems to be most concerned about the pending release of documents containing pricing info and details about its “smart grid” technology. But, it’s also demanding the removal of the two documents already released, both of which are fairly innocuous (and can be viewed below!) As MuckRock’s Michael Morisy points out, it should be under no obligation to remove the documents as it’s received no notice from the city of Seattle that the documents it has in its possession weren’t supposed to be released.
Morisy and MuckRock don’t plan to back down.
We believe that these legal threats are a chilling attack on free speech and we will not be complying with their demands.
We also believe people have a broad right to understand the security implications of technology purchased by their governments, particularly if, as is the case with the smart electrical meter systems provided by Landis+Gyr, that technology monitors the activities of people in their homes.
At this point, the injunction doesn’t appear to have been granted, which means MuckRock can still (for the time being) host the docs it has already obtained as well as anything else Landis+Gyr-related Seattle sends to Mocek while its request is being reviewed.