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The California Public Utilities Commission last week approved rules that would prohibit utility companies from disclosing customer information gathered via smart meters without that customer’s consent. The decision took effect immediately on Tuesday, with utilities such as San Diego Gas & Electric given 90 days to implement the new rule.

Since their debut in 2008, virtually all homes in San Diego have been retrofitted with the new electronic meters, which can monitor and track usage data in increments as small as 15 minute periods. The new meters have met criticism from consumers, some of whom have complained of harm from radiation the devices emit, and others who cite privacy concerns over the utilities’ ability to gather and disseminate data about individuals’ power use habits.

The state’s Division of Ratepayer Advocates supported the move but would have liked restrictions carried even further to cover third parties that could gain access to power use data. According to their website, “DRA supports the adoption of this decision with modifications to close loopholes in privacy laws,” such as one that allows customer information to be released without consent if used for a “primary purpose.”

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