Sunday, September 22, 2013

Smart meters and the potential for encroachment by Big Brother

People object for a number of reasons to the new "smart meter" technology being installed by power companies across the country. Russell Irwin, the first guy in the above video, just doesn't want a new meter ("shoved down his throat") saying his original analog meter works just fine.  Others object to the installation of the remote metering WiFi technology on their premises, fearing adverse health effects. The second fellow, Len Miller, objects on grounds of privacy and the potential for government to monitor his activities.
First, the meters belong to the energy company and are installed by agreement between the buyer and the supplier of energy. If you want power you agree to pay for what you use.  If the company decides to upgrade its metering equipment that's strictly its business unless the equipment can be reasonably shown to be harmful to the customer.  If all BC Hydro did was use WiFi technology to remotely collect monthly power usage data, presumably reducing meter reading costs, then who could object?
Well, lots of people would anyway.  People like Russell Irwin and those who fear the health effects of WiFi. But neither has reasonable proof of harm.

Of all the objections against smart meters, the only legitimate one, so far, is Len Miller's objection based on privacy concerns.  The potential for future encroachment of Big Brother is a real threat that needs to be addressed.  [Miller's completely unacceptable treatment by the idiot thugs of the Vancouver Police Department is a separate and much more urgent matter.]

I wrote to BC Hydro last year with my own concerns about privacy and the potential for smart metering to be used by government to manipulate and coerce energy use (for example to enforce "climate change" policy).  Their response:
Thank you for contacting us regarding BC Hydro’s Smart Metering Program.
Our customers trust us to protect their privacy and security, and we recognize and take that responsibility very seriously. That’s why extensive privacy provisions are in place for the Smart Metering Program.
BC Hydro takes the responsibility to protect your privacy and security very seriously
BC Hydro has been collecting electricity consumption information for 50 years through a safe, secure and regulated process. The Smart Metering Program is no exception.
Privacy is governed by the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, for which the Office of the Privacy Commissioner here in British Columbia provides oversight. BC Hydro has worked closely with the Commissioner’s Office over the past few months and will continue to work closely with their office to put in place the most stringent privacy standards, and to ensure privacy is built into the entire system.
Your information will remain private and secure with the new smart metering system because: 
  • Smart meters do not contain personally-identifiable information. The only information stored on the meter is hourly consumption information. The information is encrypted much like online banking.
  • Smart meters cannot detect what appliances you are using or when. Smart meters only measure how much energy a home used or generated in total. This is the same information we have always collected, just more frequently – up to three or four times per day rather than once every two months.
  • BC Hydro does not sell or disclose personal information to third parties. The information collected will be handled in accordance with the B.C. Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act – just as it is now with your existing meter. 
  • The smart metering system uses multiple layers of security. Multiple layers of security ensure that any single point of vulnerability will remain contained and will not compromise the overall system. We have hired online experts to test our systems and develop the strongest possible protections.
All personal information will then continue to be handled in accordance with the British Columbia Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
We do not have an opt out option. BC Hydro is committed to working with you to understand your specific concerns. We understand that some customers are uncomfortable with radio frequency based technology and that’s why we are working with those customers on a case by case basis to find mutually agreeable solutions.  The options available to you will depend on your individual concerns and circumstances.  In addition, the costs associated with customization will also vary depending on your unique circumstances.
Your concerns have been noted on your account and a smart meter will not be installed at this time until we have communicated with you further.  [They installed the meter without further communication].
I suspect that was a pro-forma response.  And they didn't address my point about the potential for manipulation to enforce policy for "fighting climate change".


Anonymous said...

In the USA , people weren't being told the whole truth about how those meters really work.
The WiFi system to read the meter from a distance has a short range, BUT , many are set-up in densely populated Meter zones to act like a Daisy-Chain arrangement as the older Office PC did to link all PC back to the main frame or server.
Today in the USA,each meter can send a signal to the house next to it which re-sends it down the street one by one. The last house , or any selected house would be where the WiFI reader it placed.
What's the problem your thinking??? Well,Utility Co.'s
collect all that Data for power use and when it's used. NOW then have a profile for the Neighbourhood which reveals the avegarge laundry time, TV peaks and times the people are home.
This is then sold to Companies that re-sell it for Retail sales to pick the best times for TV Ads such a Laundry Softeners or Washer and Dryer Ads prior to laundry time as a reminder that your machines as old and eat power.
Telemarketing firms know when the most number of peope are in the house and that someone will answer the phone. Mail ADS can be delivered around 2:00 pm instead of 9:30 am where they sit there or get blown off the porch from high winds.
Cable Companies already use their Digital DATA to know exactly what every Customer is watching , and which days of the week. They can sell Air-time knowing the DATA has 7000 Homes with TV's in 3 rooms and at least two pre-teens at home by about 8:00pm.
The SMART meter should be cheaper because they steal DATA from customers as if it's a favour to sell power at the cheapest price in off-peak times, but then makes $1000's compiling Area Profiles along with STATS-CAN DATA for Income, Culture,Ages,Cars,Childen, dwelling size and number of cars and Phones.

It's coming here folks, this is a privacy issue we should be assured will be protected and fines for Corp's handing over our Patterns for cash to end up being victims or endless Flyers and Telemarketing scam.

JR said...

Thanks for the comments. BC Hydro claims our privacy will be protected i.a.w. the FOI and Protection of Privacy Act and that it will not share data with third parties. But somehow I'm not convinced that we're safe from future intrusion and manipulation. For one thing BC Hydro is a government entity. Is the government a third party or will data be shared with other government departments? And, the government can change the rules at any time by passing new laws.

Fred from BC said...

There is one reason and one reason only why the government has chosen to switch to smart meters: to implement "time-of-day pricing". Period. It was a cash grab right from day one, with the apparent collusion of the news media (did you see any stories mentioning that BC Hydro would soon be charging different rates at different times of day? Neither did I...).

The government would have us believe that this was all done for our benefit. They lie, in the same way they are lying about their plans to implement "road pricing". Think about that *huge* Treo building they just erected, supposedly to toll the Port Mann Bridge. Yeah,'s only about three times the size you would need to handle that and the Golden Ears Bridge combined...

JR said...

BC Hydro does not yet bill based on time-of-use but it's only a matter of time. Here's what they say:

"BC Hydro does not currently have time-of-use rates. While smart meters are installed across B.C., rate structures will remain the same. If voluntary or mandatory time-of-use rates are considered in the future, they’ll be implemented only after extensive public consultation and an independent regulatory review."