19
May
2009

Social worries about new Smart Meters for gas/electricity

I would like to comment on the Smart Meters that are being installed throughout the western world. Others (see references below for example) have expressed concern about the electromagnetic pollution being added to the burden now being carried. My comments are from a social point of view.

These are to connect our power consumption meters to a company that reads data any time remotely.

1. These are a serious new limit on our privacy. The new metering enables a commercial company to know all our movements. They get this information from the hours and types of our energy usage.

2. The data is collected by a special company, not the electricity or gas supplier. This can be collected as often as half-hourly. Why? Usually, the electricity/gas supplier usually only needs it monthly. In my area, the data is collected every half hour.

3. The gas/electricity retailers seem to be putting their prices up to cover the cost of the new meter, despite saying the consumer does not pay for it. The new meters evidently cost them $USD $2 per month. Evidence from Canada shows an excuse was made, then prices went up this exact amount. This happened in New Zealand too, and it was a similar amount.

4. Privacy (small-scale).
With this data, if they can get it, burglars and gangsters can work out a household's exact activity patterns. Imagine how a stalker could use this.

5. Privacy (large-scale).
The US government has data-collecting software which is so sought-after it became a big criminal issue a couple of decades ago. You might have heard the software names Promis or Inslaw. People got murdered, seemingly connected to the illegal acquisition of this software from its private developers and owners. This indicates how desirable it was. It now licences an adapted form of this software out to many other governments.

What does this software do?

This software finds us, wherever we are. It puts together a huge number of small patterns of behaviour, and can then reach into a number of different databases to find matches. It uses little things like maybe you always buy cans of tuna plus a certain brand of coffee, or you walk a certain way on the street, or (maybe) your household energy usage is distinctive.

Maybe you will say, "Well, I'm an honest person, why should I care?"

You need to care because it is dangerous to give companies and governments powers that they might, one day in the future, misuse. You have no guarantee that your government, wherever you are, will always be nice to you.

Already, round the world, some people who seem to be good honest people complain that they are being stalked or tracked, and some of them say government seems to be involved.

These are some of my social concerns about the new wireless-networked "smart meters" now being installed in homes round the world.


Lyn Milnes in New Zealand
landairwater@xnet.co.nz
P O Box 37-773, Auckland, New Zealand
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