The discussion of privacy – what it is and what it isn’t – embodies one of the preeminent concerns of the day. For this reason, privacy has been declared by Dictionary.com as the “Word of the Year” for 2013.
Privacy is defined as “the state of being free from intrusion or disturbance in one’s private life and affairs.” The distinction between private and public predates the English language. In Ancient Rome, privatus and publicus were juxtaposed terms that distinguished that which belongs to the state (publicus) from that which belongs to the individual (privatus).
In recent years many people have embraced social media, choosing to share intimate personal information and photographs on Facebook and Twitter. However, this past year in 2013, there has been what USA Today dubbed the “Edward Snowden effect” where people are now monitoring their privacy settings on their computers and smart phones more than ever before. On a global scale, early December 2013 saw the release of an open letter, signed by more than 500 world-renowned writers, urging the United Nations to create an international bill of digital rights. They highlighted the individual’s right “to remain unobserved and unmolested” in “thoughts, personal environments, and communications.”
What many people don’t realize, however, is that corporations and governments are planning and implementing additional and unprecedented privacy invasions into our home as part of initiatives to deploy smart meters, smart appliances, and the “smart grid.”
As reported in a November 2013 article in the Washington Post, as early as 2010, Siemens said it was capable of using its smart meters to learn some pretty incredible things about our energy usage:
“We, Siemens, have the technology to record it [energy consumption] every minute, second, microsecond, more or less live,” said Martin Pollock of Siemens Energy, an arm of the German engineering giant, which provides metering services.
“From that we can infer how many people are in the house, what they do, whether they’re upstairs, downstairs, do you have a dog, when do you habitually get up, when did you get up this morning, when do you have a shower: masses of private data.”
[Also refer to a related 2010 Reuters article and a Denver Post article for additional background material.]
Unfortunately, these extraordinary privacy invasions are being spearheaded by misguided people in the name of battling climate change, creating investment opportunities, and supposedly “helping the consumer save money.” A February 2014 article in the Motley Fool described the “Internet of Things” as our “greatest shot at battling climate change.”
As described in the Motley Fool article:
“Machine to machine communication, or the internet of things, is on the precipice of taking the world by storm. At its very core, machine to machine communication is the ability to connect everything, I mean everything, through a vast network of sensors and devices which can communicate with each other. … The way that the internet of things could revolutionize our lives can be hard to conceptualize all at once. So today let’s focus on one place where machine to machine communication could have an immense impact: Energy consumption. Not only could this technology make turning the lights on easier, but it could be the key to us effectively managing anthropogenic carbon emissions.”
“The Internet of Things is still very much in its infancy, but it’s taking off fast. The pending boom in machine-to machine communication helps explain why Google shelled out more than $3.2 billion for smart-thermostat company Nest Labs. Its ability allows customers to better manage heating and cooling in households and instantly provide feedback to utilities in order to better manage energy demand during peak load hours. Sure, estimates put the total number of machine-to-machine capable devices in the billions, but for the Internet of things to be truly effective, everything needs to be connected. Estimates for total connected devices around the globe could reach into the trillions.”
Then there is the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC). This organization is the propaganda machine for the smart grid industry. In a recent report, the SGCC characterized those who oppose smart meters as “pockets of noisy opposition to grid modernization.” The use of the term noisy is interesting in that it implies that smart meter opponents make “unpleasant sounding” arguments. No doubt the arguments are unpleasant to ears of the people at the SGCC and the rest of the smart grid industry even though the arguments are more truthful than the misinformation disseminated by the SGCC. There is also the general saying that, “Sometimes the truth is hard to hear.”
Let us say that more people taking note of the privacy invasions occurring around them is a positive development as well as Dictionary.com naming the word privacy as the “Word of the Year.” However, unless the so-called pockets of noisy opposition to “smart” technologies transform into more of a tsunami of organized resistance, we are quickly headed toward a day and time when our every movement will be monitored and controlled by the technocrats. This would allow the words written by George Orwell to finally become reality, i.e., “Big Brother is watching you.” …
Furthermore, with all the wireless emissions associated with machine to machine communication (and the Internet of Things), the world will be overwhelmed with exponential increases in harmful radiofrequency (RF) radiation, to the point that the machines may be the only ones left in the end to inherit the earth.
I really hope that my letter will get to the public. People should know what’s happening in Australia:
The Smart Meter ruined me. I am a single mother, with a 14 year old daughter. My power has been cut-off on Monday morning 3 March 2014 without any prior warning. …
I became ill after a smart meter was installed on my house 19 March 2013 against my consent and at a time I wasn’t even aware that it had been installed as I was on my business trip interstate. While my health was slowly deteriorating, I then discovered that the Smart Meter has been installed INSIDE my bedroom wall cavity (No brickwork, only plaster between the SM and my head) I was repeatedly asking UE [United Energy] to replace the SM with my original bi-directional meter, that I paid for while I’ve installed the Solar Panels. All my pleas were ignored and ridiculed. Later I was hospitalised with an acute burning rash all over my body and swollen legs.
I later complained to the Energy and Water Ombudsman Victoria (EWOV) and initially was getting the same response as from UE. Finally the Ombudsman requested from UE to either replace the meter with the original one, or switched off the pulses or remove the chip. UE refused to do anything.
I had to cease professional employment due to ongoing symptoms: Burning sensation in the eyes, throat, mouth, all over the face, headaches, insomnia, acute deterioration of the vision, nausea, swollen legs, skin rashes with burning sensation, irritability, constant fatigue and short memory loss.
The pain became so unbearable that I placed the last call to UE 5 Oct 2013 begging to remove the SM, but they refused again. So I took the matter into my own hands and removed Smart Meter. Once the meter was removed my health slowly started to improve, which is supported by medical evidence.
After I’ve installed another electronic meter to show the good will and willingness to pay for the electricity, my health deteriorated further at a rapid speed. I’ve since been diagnosed with severe EHS (electro hypersensitivity), which states that my condition was triggered from the smart meter’s microwave radiation. I am now on a Disability Pension. While continuing to deteriorate health wise, I sent another letter to United Energy. This letter was based on the Minister’s (Energy and Resources) recent announcement that Victoria will have two Electrical Metering Systems, and the fact that UE has since advised their customers who refused the SM installation that they will honour their request not to have their SM installed. Therefore I requested to exchange my Smart Meter. No written reply to this request has been received to date.
3 March 8.30 AM my power was cut off and my atrocious journey to reconnect the power began. Despite a medical certificate, a disability pension, which recognises EHS and a legal letter demanding immediate reconnection and stating that the disconnection was unlawful, as no notice was given and that this breaches the disability and equal opportunity acts, United Energy continues to refuse reconnection, unless I accept a smart meter. This is at odds with recent letters to many other UE customers which “formally acknowledges their continued refusal to have a smart meter installed and honours their request to not have a smart meter installed at this time”. Isn’t this discrimination?
I am single mother, with a 14 year old daughter. I contacted the UE with no outcome. I contacted the Ombudsman again. Federal MP was acting on my behalf and been advised by Ombudsman that I will get connected only after I will allow the smart meter to be installed. Legal Aid tried to assist me in my ordeal and received the same outcome.
The last shock I received from the member of Minister’s office when he suggested: why can’t you move somewhere else? Why can’t you stay with you friends in the country. You don’t have to live in Melbourne… Your daughter can stay with her friends…or she can go to another school in the country.
And this all is happening after Energy Minister stressed in one of the interviews that disconnecting the power from people’s houses is INHUMAINE. Me and my daughter are still living without power and suffering immensely mentally, emotionally and physically.