"Mayor: We told you so!"
I guess if we were children in a school yard, that might be the statement members of area personal liberty groups, including the Chattanooga Tea Party, could use after reading that CIA Director David Petraeus confirmed our concerns about smart meters and the threat they pose to our personal liberties and privacy.
According to an article this week at the website DailyMail, Petraeus affirmed that "web connected gadgets will 'transform' the art of spying without planting bugs, breaking and entering or even donning a tuxedo to infiltrate a dinner party." The article goes on to reference that some of the appliances that could be used to monitor citizens' activities are "dumb" home appliances such as refrigerators, ovens and lighting systems.
As a reminder, in November 2011, Mayor Littlefield, through his spokesman Richard Beeland, mocked area citizens for raising a legitimate concern about this privacy threat posed by smart meters, referring to these citizens as "conspiracy theorists." Additionally, Mr. Harold DePriest, president and CEO of Chattanooga's Electric Power Board, brushed off these same concerns when he was questioned by Chattanooga Tea Party members at their monthly meeting in November. Quoting him specifically, Mr. DePriest stated in an interview the week after the meeting, "Surveillance is a long stretch. I can't tell if someone is asleep or awake, if they are cooking or watching the TV."
Let me be clear. I do not personally fear technology. In fact, I embrace it and typically seek out the latest gadgets that make my life more efficient and productive. But at the same time, when area citizens raise legitimate concerns and warnings about the potential aberrant use of technology to invade their privacy and violate their Constitutionally protected rights, one would hope that those elected to serve the people would take those warnings seriously rather than scoffing, mocking and attempting to marginalize. In this instance, anyone who is half awake can clearly see that the warnings by Chattanooga Tea Party members about smart meters and their potential for misuse and invasion of one's privacy has been validated by the nation's Top Spy - CIA Director Petraeus.
Chattanooga Tea Party
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Which Constitutionally protected right would this infringe upon? As far as I know the Constitution says that the government can't quarter soldiers in my home or conduct an unreasonable search. Let's just assume that they are tapped in to my house, is knowing how many times my doorbell is rung unreasonable? How about how often my refrigerator is running? Or how long my stove is on? When the companies that could potentially collect this data start doing it without my consent I'll start to worry about it. As of now, EPB cannot monitor your appliances without consent, and if you don't use smart appliances it's a moot point anyway.
So Mr. West uses all of this technology, but then wants to complain about it at the same time? That makes sense. I would think that someone with that much tin foil wrapped around their head would want to safeguard as much as possible.
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As more information and 'truth' comes out about Smart Meter technology, those who raised an early concern are being proven correct. Initially, these same people were ridiculed as conspiracy theorists for even prosposing that this technology could have privacy implications. Now, even after the director of the CIA openly admits that such technology could be used for 'spying' and that invasion of privacy concerns are legitimate, there are those like Mr. Bonner who yet again ridicule Mr. West for his pointing out confirmation of a potential threat to your privacy and, perhaps, one day even your liberty. You have no idea what capabilities are available and being used.
Technology is neutral - neither good or bad. How it is used determines whether it is for good or for evil. Using technology is not hypocritical. Blindly accepting that it will be used for good by government is just foolish.
If you will just look objectively at how government is encroaching on your liberty, maybe you too will realize what's happening before it's too late.
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Before you get your feathers all riled up over home surveillance via the Internet I'll let you in on a little secret; this is extremely difficult and expensive to do.
First thing you would have to have is a monitoring communications "standard;" in the engineering world we call these RFC's.
Second, all new appliances would have to have monitoring circuits and firmware built into the design and you would have to replace your old appliances with the new ones.
Third, either you, your Interset service provider, or a third party would have to install a central hub in your home in order to aggregate all the various inputs from different appliances and make some kind of sense out of the data.
Fourth, if there were cameras and microphones in your communication devices they could easily be bypassed with something as simple as black electrical tape or a spinning drill bit. For this to ever happen it will have to be crammed down your throat or you would have to be complicit and allow it.
If I were you I would be more worried about your credit card companies and banks analyzing your spending habits or what you say about yourself on your Facebook page which, by the way, I do not have and specifically for this reason.
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Smart meters will be used as unwarranted surveillance tools in our homes which is precisely why they are a violation of the Constitution. Mr. West clearly states and references several times in his article that it is our Constitutionally protected right to privacy that smart meters would infringe upon.
Most of us may not care if smart meters merely recorded how often our refrigerator is running, etc., but how many times my doorbell is rung, yes. If after so many times it's not answered, may indicate I'm not home or how many visitors I get at any given time, etc.
The utilities will use the massive amount of info smart meters collect to control your energy usage, shut off your appliances remotely without your consent and sell the info to marketing companies for profit. Furthermore, the info collected wirelessly can never be secure enough to where we can feel completely safe that it's not being hacked and falling into the hands of criminals.
The crux of the issue, Mr. Bonner, is that the companies can potentially collect this data without your consent. Please don't naively assume that EPB and other utilities will not eventually be able to force/bribe you to consent to give them access to the valuable info your appliances are transmitting via smart chip implants. Perhaps a steep enough alternative opt-out fee with some innocent-sounding sweet talk about how "helpful" smart meters are as just one example, might convince you to sign away your privacy on the dotted line. If that doesn't work, some good ole government legislation might do so "for the good of the people." After all, who would not want to do our "fair share?"
Really, would appliance manufacturers be going through all the effort and expense to install smart chips for no apparent reason other than for our sakes? Likewise, would government controlled utilities be deliberately lying to us that smart meters are mandatory when they are not just because they are good for you and me? Do you think there might be something real good in it for them and not so good for us? Do you honestly believe their motives are altruistic?
Let's apply some sophisticated logic here: If it looks like a rat, sounds like a rat, most likely it is a rat...or one in sheep's clothing.
The radio-frequency waves and electromagnetic fields emitted by the smart meters slapped on our property without our consent are harmful to our health. For those who falsely claim they are no more harmful than cell phones, why do you think we are warned to shut off our cell phones and wireless devices during aircraft take off? If cell phones can interfere with the plane's electronic gadgets, it stands to reason that a smart meter's constant pulse can interfere with our body's normal electric pulses. RFs are a known carcinogen and can interfere with pacemakers.
Technology is proven to be both good and bad. We surf the net and use our computers to store and retrieve information but we are also painfully aware of their use by sexual/child predators. The government run utilities don't want us to become informed about the smart meter program because they know they'd then have a marketing problem on their hands.
What Mr. West is trying to do, Mr. Bonner, is safeguard you and the public, get us to use our noodles and not assume everything we're told is as good for us as they want us to believe. Some respect for his attempts are in order.
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I just couldn't let this opinion piece go without responding to its false assertions. The article referenced is located here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2115871/The-CIA-wants-spy-TV-Agency-director-says-net-connected-gadgets-transform-surveillance.html. The quote from CIA Director David Petraeus is from this article but does not seem to have anything to do with “Smart Meters.”
A smart meter (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smart_meter) is only designed to measure the amount of power used and transmit that at regular intervals to the power authority.
Other benefits of this are as follows:
reduced cost of reading meters as a person is no longer required to walk through the neighborhood taking meter readings
reduced misreading of meters (though I still think auditing of these readings needs to take place for quality control)
customers should be able to track their power consumption daily on EPB’s website once they make the information available to their customers
These meters also give EPB notification of power outages at specific addresses without anyone having to make a call (this is very good as it would reduce any power outage issue at my residence that could cause problems i.e. food spoilage because the refrigerator isn’t running).
The possibility of EPB tracking power usage to attempt to determine when people are present due to increased usage is possible but probably fairly inaccurate. Lights and devices on timers, programmable thermostats, temperature changes during the day causing increased air conditioning use, and a refrigerator slowing losing refrigerant causing increased power usage all occur without a person being at home or directly triggering increased power usage. I suppose EPB is within their rights to send a person to your house daily or multiple times daily to record your power usage. Is there a problem with that?
As for privacy issues, anyone wanting to look at the data gathered would have to present a proper warrant before being allowed to look at information. Have you heard that EPB will be distributing this information to the police without a warrant? Are they currently distributing this information to any person or law enforcement agency without proper authorization? If so, I would also have a problem with that, but I do not have any reason to suspect this is happening. If you do, I would really love to see your evidence as I believe we would have one hell of a good class action lawsuit against EPB.
The article you referenced had to do with internet enabled devices at use within ones residence. The article did not mention “smart meter” technology. The issue in that article would require you to have an active internet connection, a wireless access point/router, and the “web-connected gadget” referenced in the article will have to have a password to gain access to your wireless router (or an actual network cable). Examples of these devices are TVs and Blu-Ray players that have the “apps” that allow you to watch Netflix or other similar services via the internet.
Game consoles such as the Microsoft XBOX 360, Playstation 3, or Nintendo Wii would be another way to do this type of activity. Tablets like the iPad, smartphones that will use open Wi-Fi or secure Wi-Fi when provided the proper password would also be another possible transmission point.
Let me be clear, and I would welcome input or corrections to this from someone in an authoritative position with EPB or other technology company to point out any incorrect information I have given. With that said, let me be clear: A “smart meter” on the side of your house does not connect you to, or allow any of these “web-connected gadgets” connect in any way to the internet and therefore would not have the ability to transmit data to anywhere using said “smart meter”. For the “gadgets” in question to transmit anything about you it would require action by somebody to install, configure, and grant access to the internet to the “web-connected gadget” in question.
If you’re that concerned about your privacy, it is the internet connection you have be it through EPB (the best in my opinion), Comcast, AT&T (DSL or “U-verse”) that should be the real concern here. If you do not understand how the technology works, are unable to configure and maintain it properly, or are just that paranoid about your information being “out there” I suggest that you terminate your access immediately. You probably should turn off your cell phone service as well, since your location can be tracked as I believe all current cell phones are supposed to contain a GPS receiver and have the ability to be located in the case of an emergency. Do you have and use a debit card or credit card? Those can be used to track your location and spending habits, probably should get rid of those too. These devices are far more telling of our activities.
To wrap up, smart meters are not the big bad monster in the closet you are trying to make them out to be. The real culprit here is ‘you’, believe it or not. And by you I actually mean all of us that use “web-connected gadgets”. We are the ones responsible for purchasing, using, and by using we grant these companies access to our information. We’re doing it to ourselves by using these “web-connected gadgets,” not the Electric Power Board by placing the smart meter on the side of our house that only reads and transmits the amount of electricity you use and nothing more.
Happy EPB customer