Skip to main content
Please enter a legal issue and/or a location
Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Find a Lawyer

More Options

Smart Meter Data Protected by Fourth Amendment

By George Khoury, Esq. on August 24, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Smart meters have been a curiously controversial issue. Though most of the uproar that local news captured seemed to be from delusional paranoid individuals, it turns out there was another, more serious, and real danger.

Smart meter data can tell law enforcement a lot about an individual or household. And though the use of smart meters may not seem like such a huge intrusion upon a person's individual civil liberties and right to privacy, the Seventh Circuit explained that smart meter data does fall under the Fourth Amendment's protections; however, city utilities, generally, have a reasonable purpose for accessing the information and therefore do not need a warrant.

It's sometimes easy to forget that the Fourth Amendment only protects against "unreasonable" searches. The Seventh Circuit's recent decision makes the smart meter reasonableness line much much clearer, explaining the data gleaned from smart meters is nearly as sensitive as the geo-location data gleaned from smartphones.

While the court explained that a utility service provider acts reasonably when it collects data from smart meters according to a predetermined system, prior decisions had ruled that it didn't qualify as a Fourth Amendment search.

This Naperville decision makes it less ambiguous as to whether law enforcement needs to get a warrant before getting this data from utility service providers, even if those providers are a government entity.

Double Secret Privacy Waiver

Interestingly, the city utility tried to argue that the residents waived their expectation of privacy, especially to third parties, by agreeing to use the smart meters. The court dinged the city here pretty hard though as the city's smart meter program was not actually voluntary and the residents didn't have any choice.

Related Resources:

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:
Copied to clipboard