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ESPE winter series kicks off with talk on smart meter data privacy

The Environmental Science, Policy and Engineering Winter Seminar Series kicks off Thursday, Jan. 31 with a talk by Allen Gilbert, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont.

Gilbert's talk, “Smart Meter Data Privacy,” begins at 7 p.m. in the Nott Memorial. It is free and open to the public.

The ACLU of Vermont has become increasingly concerned about the electronic collection and retention of large amounts of data that tell a lot about a person’s individual actions. This data is of great interest to commercial companies and law enforcement. The collection of electrical usage data through smart meters is a new piece of such collection, and few people realize what the data can reveal about people’s lives.

The ACLU believes strict standards must be put in place to protect individuals’ privacy. Unauthorized distribution of utility customers’ usage data to commercial companies must be prohibited, and law enforcement must not be allowed access to the data except with a warrant.

Gilbert has been executive director since 2004. Before that, he worked as a reporter and then city editor at the Rutland Herald and as assistant editor of the Sunday Herald-Times Argus. He taught writing at several Vermont colleges and lived abroad for three years, teaching American studies at a German university. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Harvard and a master’s in education from the College of William and Mary.

This is the 16th year for the speaker series, which is sponsored by the Environmental Science, Policy and Engineering (ESPE) program with support from the Mellon Foundation.

The theme of this year’s interdisciplinary series is "Moving Toward the Smart Grid."