So called “smart” electricity meters are spying on you

It’s a common trend, but everything is spying on you nowadays. We’re not talking about men in black suits and sunglasses following you around the city, but instead we’re referring to the pervasive passive monitoring that is being done to nearly everyone. From your cell phone providing tracking data to Apple, to your TomTom GPS providing data to police in order to set up speed traps, everyone wants information on what you do and when you do it.

Now with the advent of so-called “smart” electricity meters, it appears that even your own house is capable of gathering information on your habits. While the amount of electricity you use may seem innocuous, according to the EFF, this data can be used to gather details on when you wake up or go to sleep, when you come home, or when you start making dinner. This is because the relatively new meters collect hundreds or thousands of data points per month, effectively painting a picture of what you’re doing day to day. While this information can be helpful in identifying areas to save on electricity usage, it is also a treasure trove of information for third party companies.

The California Public Utilities Commission has stepped up and released a proposal that will limit what the utility companies can do with the data they collect. Although this proposal has not yet been finalized, the EFF hopes that it will become a “model for how to protect sensitive consumer information while providing new ways to save energy.

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How can you have a "smart" meter that doesn't stores, process, or analyze information? The things they could determine may not conform to a pattern unless you maintain a tight schedule of events. Further, most of these things can be accurately assumed. You sleep at night. You get up between 6-8am and you come home between 3-6pm. You cook dinner (if you do at all) after you get home. It also lends itself to inaccuracy. They can make some assumptions but they don't really know exactly what you're doing. Somebody mentioned determining the types of food you like to cook based on pressure, time, and flow. The sheer amount of foods and cooking techniques for said food would render this data useless.

PEC in Austin is testing a few of these... I told them i would volunteer but apparently the costs with smart grid technology make going green more expensive. Corporations simply pass the expense to the consumer while reaping the profits of a managed grid. In other words, you're penalized for using less energy because your costs per kwh go up and the more you reduce the more they hit you with flat fees to cover their costs of "smart grid".

blahism said,
PEC in Austin is testing a few of these... I told them i would volunteer but apparently the costs with smart grid technology make going green more expensive. Corporations simply pass the expense to the consumer while reaping the profits of a managed grid. In other words, you're penalized for using less energy because your costs per kwh go up and the more you reduce the more they hit you with flat fees to cover their costs of "smart grid".

AEP in Ohio did that...they registered a drop in usage due to a CF bulb compain, then went to the utilities commission to request a hike in prices due to a drop in demand.

Increased demand --> increase in rates
Decreased demand --> increase in rates
Flat demand --> increase in rates

You just can't win.

Oh no! People can now find out when I cook my food! I bet they'll use this for something evil, like sending the mail man over with a package EXACTLY when go into the shower.

I better start randomly turning the oven on and stuff, so that big brother won't find out about my super special secret daily rhythm. /s

The data that is tracked gives anyone who gets their hands on it a clear indication of when you're home and when you're not. This makes it possible for people to accurately predict when your home will be empty, and plan robberies or other such nonsense accordingly.

This, however unlikely, is what I would worry about.

spacer said,
The data that is tracked gives anyone who gets their hands on it a clear indication of when you're home and when you're not. This makes it possible for people to accurately predict when your home will be empty, and plan robberies or other such nonsense accordingly.

This, however unlikely, is what I would worry about.


You know how else they could do that? Assume I have a job, or see if there's a car in my driveway.

Edited by Memnochxx, May 12 2011, 11:10am :

Flatval said,
Oh no! People can now find out when I cook my food! I bet they'll use this for something evil, like sending the mail man over with a package EXACTLY when go into the shower.

I better start randomly turning the oven on and stuff, so that big brother won't find out about my super special secret daily rhythm. /s

Yeh but now they will be able to sell your habits to advertising companies so they can ring you on those automated phones services selling insurance at the exact moment you get home after work!!!...

...Oh wait they already do that.

spacer said,
The data that is tracked gives anyone who gets their hands on it a clear indication of when you're home and when you're not. This makes it possible for people to accurately predict when your home will be empty, and plan robberies or other such nonsense accordingly.

This, however unlikely, is what I would worry about.

Better stay inside then.

Flatval said,
Oh no! People can now find out when I cook my food! I bet they'll use this for something evil, like sending the mail man over with a package EXACTLY when go into the shower.

I better start randomly turning the oven on and stuff, so that big brother won't find out about my super special secret daily rhythm. /s

Wow...James Bond planning for a robbery, are you serious? Most robberies occur simply by watching for someone to leave, looking to see if the lights are out, etc. This isn't a bank robbery that is being plotted.

Flatval said,
Oh no! People can now find out when I cook my food! I bet they'll use this for something evil, like sending the mail man over with a package EXACTLY when go into the shower.

I better start randomly turning the oven on and stuff, so that big brother won't find out about my super special secret daily rhythm. /s

Unfortunatly its a bit more then that. These smart meters can collect data not only about Kw of entergy and the times you've used them but also the type of energy you've used, be it electic or gas and HOW its been used. So if you have a standard boiler that is always on, they'll know based on how the gas is been sucked down the meter. They'll also know what kind of foods you like to cook. Lots of roasts in the oven? sure, quick spike in gas useage followed by a few hours low pressure would indicate someone is using something like an ovan to roast pork joint.

At the same time, they can also monitor the electic used and get feed back from the type of application. An example is a microwave oven creates quite bad feed back on the power it uses and typically uses quite a lot of power. So they could link you to having microwave ready meals at 2am after the house has been powered down for a few hours.

For someone like supermarkets, they'd start hammering ready meals down your throat at the local stores, or indeed you could get market calls from 'sleep easy' places to help you curve your sleep disorders etc.

As soon as people start to plot data, there are 100's of different things they can link you to, and most of it is generalised and might not affect you, but its their tried and trusted meathods of percentages ensures they make profit/sale or what ever in the higher enough numbers that it makes it worth while for them to continue to invade our privacy, if we like it or not.
unfortunatly, part of that percentage are easy targets and will be happy to just get fed what ever the marketers give them.

sagum said,

snip

So what your trying to say is... rather than trying to find the products I like, they will just simply bring it to me instead???

Sounds pretty good tbh.

"You have a sleeping problem don't you sir"
- "Yes actually I do"
"Want to buy this new type of bed?... it might help you sleep better"
- "OK/No thanks, I prefer to do the research myself" (pick answer)

SCARY STUFF

spacer said,
The data that is tracked gives anyone who gets their hands on it a clear indication of when you're home and when you're not. This makes it possible for people to accurately predict when your home will be empty, and plan robberies or other such nonsense accordingly.

This, however unlikely, is what I would worry about.

Oh please. If someone really wants to get at you like that, they can. And there are far easier ways than hacking into some electric company's usage records.

People should be more critical of such privacy issues. What many people don't realize is that we're losing our privacy with such 'smart' inventions.

Wietze said,
People should be more critical of such privacy issues. What many people don't realize is that we're losing our privacy with such 'smart' inventions.

I agree. I just want to be able to buy a product/service that does not collect, store, save, send, sell or track everything I do. I recently got rid of my Facebook and Twitter, and when my data plan on my phone is up in August I will be going backwards to a plain old regular cell phone as well.

^ Idiot.

What do people expect when they install a "SMART" meter... of course it has to collect data so that energy companies can tweak their infrastructure to maximise efficiency. It's not going to magically start saving you energy on day 1.

SuperHans said,
^ Idiot.

What do people expect when they install a "SMART" meter... of course it has to collect data so that energy companies can tweak their infrastructure to maximise efficiency. It's not going to magically start saving you energy on day 1.


umm cant they measure the outputs of their own power stations already? they have already been working with power draw patterns for decades already, like they would release the water in hydroelectric dams to coincide with commercial breaks on tv because thats when people would be turning on their kettles

carmatic said,

umm cant they measure the outputs of their own power stations already? they have already been working with power draw patterns for decades already, like they would release the water in hydroelectric dams to coincide with commercial breaks on tv because thats when people would be turning on their kettles

Yeh actually ignore my comment.. in my head I was actually thinking more about water companies (having more meters leads to more accurate network modelling). The same doesn't really apply. Although the data will be useful to many to see where/when they are using the most energy

Pass a privacy law that bans all people tracking, thus killing all these stupid businesses. Problem solved! Will the govt. do it? Hell no. ****ing lobbyists of those businesses will never let that happen.

Jebadiah said,
Pass a privacy law that bans all people tracking, thus killing all these stupid businesses. Problem solved! Will the govt. do it? Hell no. ****ing lobbyists of those businesses will never let that happen.

Kill electricity companies?

I've just had one of these installed it the UK, but this isn't really news. They tell you that it collects data on your usage constantly throughout the day. I can even view my usage trends myself

Teebor said,
I've just had one of these installed it the UK, but this isn't really news. They tell you that it collects data on your usage constantly throughout the day. I can even view my usage trends myself
+1

From the data it collects it can easily figure out when you're home or not or sleeping etc. I didn't think it was news

Rudy said,
+1

From the data it collects it can easily figure out when you're home or not or sleeping etc. I didn't think it was news


but it will be news when something obviously involving the data happens...