Computer security researcher from Münster University, Dario Carluccio and Stephan Brinkhaus, presented a hack of the electricity meters and remotely (as far as I understand) detection of which TV program you watch. A summary of the system is on sophos naked security.
The two researchers “attacked” a smart meter system by the German company Discovergy. This system stores the power consumption continuously and as each electrical apparatus may yield a temporal pattern of power consumption it is possible to detect different apparatus. Their approach seems to be based on studies previously presented in Hintergrund und experimentelle Ergebnisse zum Thema ‘Smart Meter und Datenschutz’ by Greveler, Justus and Löhr. Their abstract reads:
Advanced metering devices (smart meters) are being installed throughout electric networks in Germany (as well as in other parts of Europe and in the United States). Unfortunately, smart meters are able to become surveillance devices that monitor the behavior of the customers leading to unprecedented invasions of consumer privacy. High-resolution energy consumption data is transmitted to the utility company allowing intrusive identification and monitoring of equipment within consumers’ homes (e. g., TV set, refrigerator, toaster, and oven). Our research shows that the analysis of the household’s electricity usage profile does reveal what channel the TV set in the household was displaying. Moreover, the data being transmitted via the Internet is unsigned and unencrypted. All tests were performed with a sealed, operational smart meter used for electricity metering in a private home in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.
An hour long video with Carluccio and Brinkhaus presentation here (I
haven’t watch the entire video):