The UK Government have announced that they will require energy suppliers to hand over meter readings of millions of UK residents to conduct “financial checks […] for assurance and the prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of criminal offences including fraud”, as well as to “inform future Government policy”. It is worth mentioning, your meter readings may reveal what appliances you are using and at what time of the day, and according to the privacy notice the Government have published it may be shared with Credit Reference Agencies, Local Authorities and Debt Collectors. Data collected under the Energy Price Guarantee (EPG) scheme will be stored for “no longer than 10 years”.
Interestingly, the EPG scheme provides no incentive for cheating: the price guarantee only caps prices for gas units, and public money is given to energy companies. Thus, a perspective fraudster that were to inflate their energy bills would just end up paying more from their purse. This is likely to make the mass retention of your energy bills for a period of 10 years disproportionate and unjustifiable by its own terms, without the need to delve into the fine print.
Our analysis of this brilliant idea could end here, but proposals under the UK Data Protection and Digital Information Bill would legalise precisely this sort of unjustified intrusion into our private lives. This plan, and the attitude the Government are showing, gives us a good preview of how UK data protection reforms would work in practice.
Turning private companies into