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Ravens: Insider outs privacy fears
Ravens: Insider outs privacy fears
The NSA “almost certainly” uses Utility company records to routinely snoop on American citizens says an expert in the IT systems of Power and Water companies.

““If the NSA are scraping data from Facebook and Google searches, then they would almost certainly be interested in the data that smart meters can provide them,” said Stuart Ravens, Principal Analyst of Utilities Technology at Ovum a respected international firm of analysts.

“There are tens of millions of smart meters already installed,” said Ravens. But they are still a minority of America’s 140 million households. Now he fears, consumer opposition to smart meters will skyrocket – and quite justifiably so.

“The (electricity) industry so far has done a fairly good job of reassuring customers their data is secure,” said Ravens. But security is an issue in the public mind. “The Prism project, the NSA has destroyed the trust citizens have in government agencies – and in smart meters, which can tell when you are at home and how and when you use your electrical appliances,” said Ravens.

Trust already damaged by Utility company behavior

Customer trust in the Smart Grid was already teetering on a knife edge. “When you talk about the smart grid, its smart metering that is visible to the customer,” saud Raven. And in some cases “ustomer engagement was ignored or done very badly.”

The worst case was Pacific Gas and electric (PG&E) in Northern California which sparked off a wave of anti-smart meter sentiment. “When smart meters were turned on the timing was wrong,” said Ravens – “there was a regulator (approved) price increase anyway, and it was a once in a decade hot summer and there was heavy use of air conditioning, so some people saw their bills go up a huge amount.

Power meters unreliable

“And one thing the utility did not really plan for was that old meters, which spin, the rate at which it spins slows down — as they get older they spin slower, and so there were customers being underbilled… until the smart meter.”

“That created a big enough wave for other resentment to ride on. They are using radio comms to send the info – people are saying that this can give you cancer. In fact the levels of radio wave a smart meter exposes are tiny.”

British will be next

The British deployment will start in 2014, said Ravens. Customers will have to opt-in to share data with their utility, but many will believe that their preferneces will be secretly ignored.

“The whole idea of sharing information is based on trust,” says Ravens. When the consumer says I want to opt-out of granular data sharing, how do you know that the Utility is not still sharing your information, and who else is accessing it?
In the British deployment the DCC (Data communications company) will be one of IBM, HP and Logica/CGI – the only companies are tendering for th contract.
“They will collect all the data from smart meters,” said Ravens – “the consumer might not be sharing it with the utility but the government might get it.”

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