Smart Meter Data Collection is a “Search,” but Court Allows Anyway

by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions, Updated Augsut 24, 2018

A few days ago I reported on a ruling in the smart meter-related case of Naperville Smart Meter Awareness (NSMA) v. City of Naperville (Case 1:11-cv-09299) [1].

Since then, there have been several articles in other blogs on the same topic, many of which I considered to be inaccurate or extremely biased.  One this morning by Naked Security, however, I considered to be objective and accurate (and shorter than mine), so I thought I would provide a synopsis and link to it to provide a different perspective. Continue reading

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Federal Court Rules against Consumers on Smart Meters and Privacy Rights

by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions , Updated August 22, 2018

Key Article Points

  • Based upon a Federal Appeals Court analysis, all City of Naperville electric customers are being subjected to a governmental search every 15 minutes without a voluntary consent.
  • On August 16, 2018, a Federal Appeals Court ruled against the privacy rights of consumers concluding that governmental searches being conducted as related to data collection by smart meters are reasonable and thus permissible.
  • There are limitations to the Court ruling where it indicates that “our holding depends on the particular circumstances of this case.” [1]

For the people living in Naperville, Illinois, how does it “feel” to be subjected to a governmental search in your home every 15 minutes without your consent?

Added Commentary:  This Court ruling appears merely to have had the effect of advancing from the District Court opinion of “deemed” consent for data collection to an Appeals Court opinion of “deemed” legitimate government interest for data collection.  Either way, smart meter privacy invasions continue to occur, just now as an official governmental “search.”

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Nicor Gas Begins Deployment of Smart Meter Radio Modules in Northern Illinois

by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions

With little advance notice of what is really happening, Nicor Gas in northern Illinois is quietly attaching wireless transmitters to existing natural gas meters located at customer homes and businesses.

Nicor Gas customers have begun receiving postcards that say:

“In the near future, a small two-way communication device will be installed on the existing natural gas meter at your home or business.  The device will collect natural gas usage information and securely send it to Nicor Gas.”

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Future Hack Scenario: Disrupting a Country through Its Smart Meters

by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions

A new book by Charles Arthur on “Cyber Wars” reviews the most significant cyber attacks in recent years, discusses the lessons learned, and then concludes with an outline of what future hacks we can expect over the next couple of decades.  [1,2,3]

The first future hack scenario deals with smart devices which may be hacked and controlled through ultrasonic “speech” instructions which can unknowingly be given to smart devices in the home (like your front door to unlock) from your computer or phone speakers.

The second future hack scenario deals with self-driving cars where machine learning (ML) systems can potentially be easily affected by hackers and other bad actors to cause self-driving cars not to stop for stop signs or lights as an example.

The third future hack scenario deals with “disrupting a country through its smart meters.”  Continue reading

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France: No Legal Basis for Smart Meter Data Collection without Valid Consent

by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions

The French data protection authority (‘CNIL’) announced on March 27, 2018, that it had issued a formal notice to the nation’s primary electric supplier for failing to obtain consent for the collection of customer usage data through smart meters [1].

The utility company now has a period of three months to correct the failure or face a fine of up to € 3 million [2].

CNIL observed that at the time of the installation of smart meters, customers were asked to provide a single consent for the installation of the meter and for the collection of hourly electricity consumption data as a corollary to the activation of the new meter and in order to benefit from certain tariffs.  However, as the installation was mandatory, customers were in fact only consenting to the data collection. Therefore, CNIL determined that consent was obtained in such a way by the electric supplier that it was invalid, as it could not be considered “free, informed and specific.” [1]

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Smart Meters Enable Ongoing Surveillance of Residents

by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions

On January 16, 2018, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) commented on proposed smart meter-related legislation in the state of Maryland stating that:

“Smart meters collect detailed personal data about the use of utility services.  With a smart meter, it is possible to determine when a person is in a residence, and what they are doing.  Moreover the routine collection of this data, without adequate privacy safeguards, would enable ongoing surveillance of … residents without regard to any criminal suspicion.” [1]

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Smart Meter Cyber Attacks: “A Clear and Present Danger”

by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions

A new article has been published in the International Journal of Critical Infrastructure Protection entitled, “Security Analysis of an Advanced Metering Infrastructure.”  According to the article [1]:

“Sophisticated cyber attacks on advanced metering infrastructures are a clear and present danger.  The most devastating scenario involves a computer worm that traverses advanced metering infrastructures and permanently disables or ‘bricks’ [2] millions of smart meters in major metropolitan areas.”

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Smart Meters: “A Surveillance-capable Infrastructure”

by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions 

In a letter dated May 25, 2017, the ACLU of Washington raised “significant concerns about the lack of protections for privacy, as well as lack of transparency, in the implementation of Seattle City Light’s Advanced Metering Infrastructure.” [1] [2]

Although the concerns specifically address the planned smart meter program for Seattle, Washington, many of the identified issues apply to all smart meters being deployed across the nation and the world. Continue reading

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Smart Meter Data Analysis Enables Consumer Profiling with “Alarmingly High Accuracy”

by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions 

smart-meter-privacy-alert-clipartFrom a recent peer-reviewed industry article [1], here is what is stated about the issue of privacy and smart meters for the “end user” of electricity:

“Conventional meters were only capable of measuring and displaying the aggregate consumption. The data was collected manually in intervals defined by utility company for billing.  Smart meters however, are capable of collecting information with higher frequencies, i.e., every 15 min.  Initial AMI deployed projects in Ontario, Canada, sustain readings at intervals of 5 to 60 min.  Current technologies even allow for measurements every minute.  By analyzing smart meter’s data, it is possible to perform ‘consumer profiling’ with an alarmingly high accuracy.  Examples range from how many people live in the house, duration of occupancy, type of appliances, security and alarming systems, to inferring special conditions such as medical emergencies or [a] new born baby.

Profiling allows extracting residents’ behavior even without utilization of sophisticated algorithms and computer aided tools.  Murrill and colleagues have shown that it is possible to identify the use of major appliances in a house, by analyzing only a 15 min interval cumulative energy consumption data.  Molina-Markham et al. have shown that with the current general statistical schemes it is possible to identify the usage pattern from AMI data even without the detailed signatures of appliances or previous training.”

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We’re Being “Hunted” by Smart Meters and the Internet of Things

by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions

were-being-hunted-by-smart-meters-and-iotBecause of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the deployment of devices like utility smart meters we are quickly losing our personal freedom and liberty and further heading toward Orwell’s 1984 [1].  For those aware of what is happening, we realize that “We’re being hunted,” and that, “We feel like prey.”  This process must be reversed if we are to regain our rights as a free people.

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Smart Meter Deployments Result in a Cyber Attack Surface of “Unprecedented Scale”

by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions 

cyber-attack-surface-of-unprecedented-scaleThe Internet of Things (IoT) involves an Internet which will evolve from connecting just machines and people towards connecting “smart” objects and things.  The electric utility industry is currently developing an IoT-based smart grid (SG).  This SG is envisioned as the largest installation of an IoT network for our future world with literally billions of smart objects and things, such as smart meters, smart appliances, and other sensors [1].

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Health Risks Associated with Smart Meter Wireless Emissions

bank-of-smart-meters-croppedby K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions

Article Key Points

  • There is a “reasonable basis” for concern regarding health risks associated with smart meter wireless emissions.
  • It is “unreasonable” to involuntarily and chronically expose consumers to the electromagnetic energy emitted by smart meters.

Over the past three years at this website I have detailed a number of concerns related to utility smart meters including financial costs, privacy invasions, cyber threats, and the increased risk of fires as compared with analog meters.  Another concern relates to health risks associated with wireless emissions.

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How the Smart Meter ‘Remote Disconnect’ Can Cause Fires

by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions 

Smart Meter Fireball and RDI have previously stated that “the most dangerous ‘feature’ included in the majority of smart meters deployed today is the remote disconnect option.” [1] [2]  At the time, I was primarily referencing the increased risk that the smart meter remote disconnect (RD) poses to the electric grid from a cyber threat perspective.  In addition, however, the RD is one of the features of a smart meter (as compared to other types of electric usage meters) that increases the risk of catastrophic meter failures and resulting building fires.

To help illustrate how smart meter RDs can result in fires, this article will highlight the results of forensic investigations by EFI Global, Inc. (EFI) for a failed Sensus brand smart meter reported as involved in a fire in Las Vegas, Nevada in July 2015 [3].  There were actually two separate evaluations of the failed smart meter, first a non-destructive review in July 2015 and a destructive inspection conducted in April 2016.

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Smart Meter Deployments: Based upon Biased and False Assumptions for Providing Eco-Feedback to Consumers (Part 2)

by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions

Smart Meter Enabled Eco Feedback ImageWhat if the billions and billions of dollars being spent to deploy so-called “smart meters” were found to be justified based upon biased and false assumptions?  Should consumers still be required to pay for smart meters that were erroneously promoted as being installed for their benefit, i.e., to help them manage their energy bills?

This article will demonstrate that based upon the latest research and under the most optimistic circumstances, consumers within the general population might reduce their energy consumption by only as much as 0.5 to 0.7 % if they have access to enhanced feedback from smart meters.

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Smart Meter Remote Disconnect: An ‘Unnecessary Risk’ for Significant Damage to the Grid

by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions

Hacker with Smart Meter Interface to Remote DisconnectI have written numerous articles over the past couple of years describing how smart meters make the electric grid inherently less safe from a cybersecurity perspective.  In fact, in one article I recently stated that: “The most dangerous ‘feature’ included in the majority of smart meters deployed today is the remote disconnect option.” [1] Continue reading

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Little Justification for ‘Smart’ Meters Unless to Serve as “Crude and Heavy-Handed Price Mechanism” to Change Consumer Behavior

by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions

Little Justification for Smart MetersThis article highlights the views of Stephen Thomas on the topic of smart meters.  Stephen Thomas is an Emeritus Professor for energy policy at the University of Greenwich.  Professor Thomas was featured as a guest on BBC Radio’s Money Box program on March 26, 2016 [1].  In addition, he has published a paper entitled, “Not Too Smart an Innovation: Britain’s Plans to Switch Consumers to Smart Electricity and Gas Meters” [2].

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Vast Majority of Consumers Suffer Financial “Net Loss” with Smart Meters

by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions

Frontier Economics and Consumer Net Loss with Smart MetersThis article provides specific information to counter claims made by smart meter proponents that smart meters provide consumers with financial benefits, i.e., saving energy and reducing their utility bill.  In addition, this article presents information to help disentangle how policy makers conflate the topics of grid modernization, smart meter deployments, and sound environmental policy.

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TEDx Talk: “Wireless Wake-Up Call”

Washington DC Immersed in WirelessA TEDxBerkeley Presentation about the Health Impacts of Wireless Technology and Proposed Solutions

On February 6th, Jeromy Johnson, an expert in mitigating the negative impacts of Electromagnetic Field (EMF) exposure, was featured as a speaker at the TEDxBerkeley event for 2016.  The title of the presentation was “Wireless Wake-Up Call.”

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Families Punished by ‘Smart’ Meters and TOU Rates, Recent Study Confirms

Load Curve and TOU Ratesby K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions

In describing the effects of time varying electricity rates or Time-of-Use (TOU) rates on consumers, I have previously referenced the logical and common sense assertions of the Berkshire-Litchfield Environmental Council (BLEC) [1]:

“Tiered pricing automatically penalizes the elderly, the self-employed, the infirm, the unemployed, [and] stay-at-home parents with young children …  People can choose to do their laundry later at night but meals and bathing carry fewer options.”

More recently, the social implications of implementing TOU rates have now been described in a study published in September 2015 regarding “peak demand and the family peak period in Australia” [2].

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‘Smart’ Meters Being Deployed without Transparency or Necessary Public Debate

Transparency on Smart Metersby K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions

I have discovered several recently published articles and studies that provide profound insight on how the “smart grid” is envisioned to affect the consumer by those developing it and how substantial social implications of smart grid implementation are not being sufficiently addressed or publicly debated.

This article will explain who envisioned the smart grid and why smart meters are being deployed.  Empirical evidence will be presented on how consumer interests and rights are being ignored and why smart meter opposition by the public is fully justified and necessary.  Finally, this article provides possible solutions to correct some of the injustices being imposed upon the consumer.

Highlights and Key Points of this Article

  • Because of the absence of transparency or public debate, the smart grid lacks “democratic legitimacy.”

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‘Smart’ Meters Represent Industrial Profiteering and Government Sanctioned Surveillance, According to Study

by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions

Consumer Dataveillance by Smart MetersIn an article from December 31st, I wrote that ‘Smart’ Meters Generate a ‘Gold Mine of Data’ for Utilities and that they provide a ‘gateway’ to the home.

To better understand the full nature of this “data gold mining” and the motives behind it, I will highlight portions of a newly published paper, “The Neoliberal Politics of ‘Smart’: Electricity Consumption, Household Monitoring, and the Enterprise Form.”  The authors are from Portland State University.

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‘Smart’ Meters Generate a ‘Gold Mine of Data’ for Utilities

by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions

Smart Meter 'Big Data' Gold MineI have been saying for a number of years that utility smart meters invade your privacy and have substantiated this assertion in a number of ways.

Utility companies dismiss privacy invasion claims by replying with simplistic, misleading statements, such as, “Just like standard meters, smart meters will measure the amount of electricity you use – not how you use it.” [1]

In trying to find a new and simple way to explain how smart meters are in fact invading your privacy much more than traditional meters, I thought of an analogy of comparing smart meter data collection with “mining for gold.”

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Congressional Testimony: ‘Smart’ meters have a life of 5 to 7 years.

by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions

Gaines Testimony Oct 2015Introduction

Testimony was provided last week (October 21, 2015) at a Congressional hearing regarding “cybersecurity for power systems.”  A surprising admission was provided by one of the expert witnesses that I will discuss here in this article.

Mr. Bennett Gaines testified on behalf of FirstEnergy Service Company.  He is a Senior Vice President and the Corporate Services and Chief Information Officer.

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Smart meters giving Victorian consumers ‘no benefit’ on electricity bills, auditor-general says

by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions 

Smart Meter DunceIn 2006, the Victorian Government in Australia mandated the rollout of electricity smart meters to all households and small businesses across Victoria under the Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) program.

Victorians have paid more than $2 billion for the deployment of the smart meters, but there has been “no overall benefit to consumers,” an auditor-general’s report has found.

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Consumers and Environment Unlikely to Benefit from Smart Meters, Confirms Latest Research

by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions 

Kellogg Smart Meter Graphic with CreditThe smart grid industry has continued to spend billions and billions of dollars to deploy smart meters into the population despite the mounting evidence that they are of no value to consumers and actually introduce significant privacy, safety, and security risks.

Recent research at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago Booth School provides additional confirmation that smart meters are unlikely to benefit either the consumer or the environment.

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‘Dragnet’ Data Collections by Smart Meters and an ‘Infrastructure of Surveillance’

And What Your Utility Company Doesn’t Want You to Know about Smart Meters

by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions 

Smart Meter Big Data Dragnet CollectionIn what was likely a little publicized workshop conducted in November 2013 by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on privacy and security issues concerning the Internet of Things (IoT), I found some invaluable insight offered in the FTC video archives on the subject of smart meters.

A presentation was made at the FTC workshop by Lee Tien, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).  Key statements in the presentation and follow-up panel discussion include the following:

I’m not really a cheerleader for the Internet of Things.  To me, it raises a huge number of privacy and security issues, to the extent that IoT devices entail ubiquitous collection of large amounts of data about what people do.”

“And you are also concerned about — or should be concerned about the environmental collection, sort of a non-targeted dragnet collection from devices in the environment.”

Smart meters are a good example.” Continue reading

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Utility Industry Aware of Safety and Accuracy Issues with Digital Meters for Years

by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions 

EPRI White PaperIn reviewing an electric utility industry document from 2010, it is quite clear that the industry knew of safety and accuracy issues with smart meters before they were ever manufactured and deployed.  The title of the document is “Accuracy of Digital Electricity Meters,” published by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).

What is so incredible about the document is how strongly it was acknowledged that traditional analog meters were “an amazing of piece of engineering work.”

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Smart Meter Rollout a Waste of Money, According to Study

Waste of MoneySmart meters have been advertised as a means to “empower” consumers with information that will somehow save customers money despite the fact that the deployment of the meters themselves cost billions and billions of dollars.

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“Microwaves, Science and Lies” Documentary Reveals a Product Defense Strategy

Introduction to the Documentary Film

Waves DVD Jacket. Front“When business leads research, can we still trust science?”

For the past ten years worldwide, questioning on the safety of mobile phone antennas has been increasing.  Numerous scientific studies have revealed the adverse effects of electro- magnetic waves on health.  Yet, most health agencies, industry representatives, and a portion the scientific community claim that current health standards adequately protect the public.

Earlier this year journalist Nancy Meritens  and film director Jean Hèches completed their documentary Ondes, Science et Manigances [or Microwaves, Science and Lies], that demonstrates how the telecommunications industry creates doubt about harmful radiofrequency waves through the manipulation of science.

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“Uncertain Regulatory Environment” for Smart Meter Wireless Emissions

by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions

On June 22nd, the North Carolina Utility Commission (NCUC) issued an order to Duke Energy Carolinas, LLC, regarding manual meter reads for those customers seeking opt-outs from utility “smart” meter installations.

There are both positive and negative aspects to the NCUC Order.  First I’ll discuss the positive aspects.

The NCUC acknowledged that Duke Energy made a decision to deploy smart meters in the context of an “uncertain regulatory environment.”  This is because the FCC exposure guidelines were last updated in 1996 and are the subject of an open docket since 2013 with no resolution.

The NCUC ordered Duke Energy not to charge for smart meter opt-outs if the request is accompanied with a notarized statement from a medical physician citing the need to avoid exposure to RF emissions.  Continue reading

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Questions Remain Regarding Investigation by Authorities for 2016 Deadly Fire Linked to Utility Meter

by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions

This is an investigative report on whether a smart meter likely killed 12 horses in March 2016.

On March 15, 2016, a horrific overnight barn fire killed 12 horses at the South Florida Trotting Center, with 11 horses rescued, some with severe injuries.  In addition, two firefighters were hurt putting out the flames.

Local News Reporting Shortly after the Fire

According to the barn owner, Sam Stathis, They made a determination that the electric meter blew up.” [1]

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Smart Meters Slow Hurricane Recovery Efforts

by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions

In 2015, I wrote a comprehensive article explaining that customer calls, not smart meters are still the primary source of power outage notification for utilities and that “it is unrealistic and misleading to advertise that a smart meter will identify your home as being without power with notification to the utility of that condition.” [1]  This is particularly true for large-scale outages since individual meters generally depend on other smart meters in the system to act as relays for an outage notification signal to make it all the way back to the utility company.  As the number of meters in the system increases which are without power, fewer and fewer meters remain that can act as relays.

Smart meters can also be much more easily damaged during storm conditions as compared to their analog counterparts.  Such is likely the case in Lakeland, Florida, where restoration efforts are still underway from Hurricane Irma.  Up to 500 smart meters are reported as malfunctioning and indicating that power has been restored to the customer when it has not.  Continue reading

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