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back to article Smart meters are 'massive surveillance' tech - privacy supremo

The European Data Protection Supervisor has warned that smart meters are a significant privacy threat and wants limits on the retention and use of customer data before it's too late. The EDPS is an independent authority figure tasked with identifying where EU policies might represent a risk to privacy. He reckons next-generation …

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WTF?

Don't Panic!!

Does the European Data Protection Supervisor also have a business that sells tin foil hats?

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Devil

Re: Don't Panic!!

No, but owns shares in tin foil makers

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Anonymous Coward

Time to check out of the rat race an live on a desert island, I don't need someone monitoring my number two's and how many times I flush. And if Google happens to send over a drone I'll blast it from the sky.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Don't Panic!!

Typical commentard. Tell me what it's like to send all your correspondence using postcards instead of using envelopes. What's that? you prefer nobody read your mail but your recipient? You must have something to hide!

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Or could we not just get them scrapped as a waste of time? No? We've run out of energy and need them to limit usage? How about the energy used by the meters and the billions spent fitting them? Why not spend those billions building another nuke? How about that?

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Bronze badge

"The real way to reduce power consumption is by using smart appliances - such as a washing machine that can be configured to run during the night"

Erm. How does running a washing machine at a different time reduce consumption? All it does is move it to a different time. Reducing consumption can only be done by, you know, using less. Ie. More energy efficient homes.

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But moving to a different time is useful

If power use is taken out of peak demand times and moved to off peak then the total generation capacity can be reduced. But personally I won't want my washing machine kicking in in the middle of the night and creating noise.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: But moving to a different time is useful

@Jim, I agree, in my current house, but my in-laws wouldn't have an issue, due to their washing machine being miles away from the bedrooms. Also, I wouldn't have an issue with my fridge being told to stay off for 15mins or so, or my dehumidifier being off for a similar amount of time.

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Meh

Re: But moving to a different time is useful

You have a dehumidifier?

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Gold badge
Coat

Re: But moving to a different time is useful

Yes, that confused me too.

Why doesn't he just move into a spare, dry wing of his in-laws' palace?

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Silver badge
Thumb Down

Re: But moving to a different time is useful

I used to "time shift" my laundry, I'd put washing in at night and set a time switch on the plug so the appliance would come on early in the morning and would be finished by the time I woke up (the machine being right at the other end of my house from my bedroom).

However now I can't do that because on my new machine there's no mechanical "on-off" button which will let me leave it "switched on" but with nothing happening until the time switch on the plug activates it, just a "soft touch" button which needs pressing before anything happens.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: But moving to a different time is useful

re: Dehumidifier - I live in a Victorian terraced house with a cellar...

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Alert

washing machine

"The real way to reduce power consumption is by using smart appliances - such as a washing machine that can be configured to run during the night"

I already run my washing machine overnight because it's cheaper (Economy 7). It even has a built-in delay timer.

But for this "smart" system to work, I'd need to replace my washing machine with a new one (wasteful, not green), and the new one's "smart component" would constitute an additional point of failure and no doubt be extremely expensive to replace. This doesn't sound so smart to me.

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Unhappy

Re: But moving to a different time is useful

However now I can't do that because on my new machine there's no mechanical "on-off" button which will let me leave it "switched on" but with nothing happening until the time switch on the plug activates it, just a "soft touch" button which needs pressing before anything happens.

I'm surprised. I thought most washing machines (as well as dishwashers) these days had built-in delay timers.

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Devil

Obviously...

...the bunch that want you to use your washine machine at night live in detached houses. You try that nonsense in a flat and the noise abatement bloke will be round pronto. Is this from the same bunch that brought us the "fill yer jerry cases with petrol" advice?

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Anonymous Coward

well..

Its about peak load balancing. Running some stuff at night when capacity is available and spare makes it cheaper to deliver the power.

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@Larry F54

"I'm surprised. I thought most washing machines (as well as dishwashers) these days had built-in delay timers."

Not the one I've got and to replace it would just be more wasteful.

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Anonymous Coward

Detecting what you're watching

"pattern of energy consumed by a decent flat-screen TV can be used to work out what programme is being watched"

All the more reason to turn off the dynamic picture-screw-up options and leave the backlights running at constant brightness all the time. Looks more natural anyway, like an old CRT.

No way around it when OLED takes over though, no backlight on those.

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Joke

Re: Detecting what you're watching

Natural like a CRT: gotta love the natural electrons hitting the natural phosphors on the natural, green (naturally?) glass envelope.

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Anonymous Coward

Washing

My washing machine already does run overnight (it's called a delay timer). Doesn't save me any money as I'm not on an Economy 7 type tariff, but it does mean I can hang out all my nice clean scruddies before I head off to work.

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Mushroom

Re: Washing

Bam............. bam............ bam.......... bam......... bam........ bam....... bam...... bam..... bam.... bam... bam.. bam. bambambambambambambambambambambambam (omgthehouseisgoingtofalldown) bambambam!!!!

Just me with a rickety old washing machine then?

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Re: Washing

ssshhhssshshshshhshshshshshshshshhswushwushssshshshshshshsh bleep bleep bleep KLANK!!!

That's more or less how my washing machine runs. Just bought it last month after 20+ years of the old on. It's whisper silent. Other than the configurable bleeps that signify the end of the washing and the KLANK that means the relay to disconnect it from the power got triggered(which is actually heard while the bleeps aren't really heard).

And this is a 1600rpm model at that.

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Coffee/keyboard

Re: Washing

new keyboard pls, Timmay.

We have a new-ish whirlpool sock-eater.

when those eco wash balls with grooves in get caught on the rim of the drum, all hell breaks loose.

Need to get a different set of eco-balls, and/or a new washing machine

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Anonymous Coward

Eco balls - pah

You should hear them when a wire comes out of one of the missus bras and goes through the holes in the drum, it's like the re-enactment of a battle!

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Facepalm

Economy 7

Has anyone ever enjoyed using that? Everyone I have ever known always starts of really smug (I don't know why) when they switch to it and from that moment on it just leads to ever increasingly bizarre behaviour (running downstairs at 2am to switch the washing machine on) and recriminations (when they didn't as it had to be done at the crippling day rate).

They all end up nervous wrecks on Economy 7.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Economy 7

I don't think it was ever meant for running appliances overnight. It was so that people with electric heating could heat their water overnight so they had some nice warm water come the morning.

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Bronze badge

Re: Economy 7

Yep, I lived in a flat a long time ago which had E7 heating: wall heaters with big bricks inside them which got heated up overnight, and then released their heat throughout the day, often when you were at work :-\

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Happy

Re: Washing

That's more or less how my washing machine runs. Just bought it last month after 20+ years of the old on. It's whisper silent.

Just curious: is it one of the new AEG models?

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Alert

Re: Economy 7

ever increasingly bizarre behaviour (running downstairs at 2am to switch the washing machine on)

Timers?

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Anonymous Coward

not shared with 3rd parties

only within our mulch-tentacle own corporation selling energy, condoms, tellies, ISP services, insurance, washing powder, etc, and then, naturally, bound by the legal requirements, we're obliged to share this information with first parties, such as "law enforcement agencies" and other "government agencies" (your local council loves you!) and second parties, i.e. "carefully selected business partners".

And, ehm...sorry about this leak of 5 mln data files on our customers last night, it won't happen again, we promise to encrypt them. Next time. No, really, seriously, it's a promise, we take privacy of our customers really seriously.

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Anonymous Coward

Tip to bad guys

Buy a UPS. Then they can't monitor your consumption patterns for whatever's plugged in.

Tip to law enforcement: anyone using a UPS is a criminal

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Silver badge

Re: Tip to bad guys - patterns

"That might sound fanciful, but researchers have already demonstrated that the pattern of energy consumed by a decent flat-screen TV can be used to work out what programme is being watched, and Hustinx is probably right that this isn't information most of us would wish to share with our electricity providers."

So there are model behaviours apparently for different types of kit.

A tablet running various models could also be used to turn on and off different loads to mimic varoius domestic appliances.

"No officer, I haven't got a loft full of weed, that's just the breadmaker, dishwasher, washing machine and the rest all coming on."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Tip to bad guys - patterns

You jest, but I take the weed from the farm in the loft, and use the breadmaker, dishwasher and washing machine to process it into Ma Brannigan's Famous Herbal Soap Cakes - "A sovereign remedy for all that ails ye!"

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Tip to bad guys - patterns

If you are going to have weed in the attic, it is way better to insulate your walls, floor and roof, use mylar in walls and put a hefty (but silent) ventilation system. You should also have an insulated diesel generator (using the fuel for the heater), and the exhaust should go up, to the roof.

No other way to be safe!!

Anonymous.. you know why...

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Re: Tip to bad guys

You'd need an extremely big/expensive UPS to run a washing machine from!

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Silver badge
Flame

Once we know how much energy we're using we'll magically reduce that consumption

An article of faith indeed.

We already *know* how much energy we're using; we get a sharp reminder every three months. And if we want to see it in real time, we can go into the garage or the garden or the cupboard under the stairs and watch the bloody disc spinning around.

There is absolutely no point, no rhyme nor reason, why this should be implemented, other than for the gratification of the 'ooh look, we're doing something crowd'.

As indicated earlier, get some nukes built. Now.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Once we know how much energy we're using we'll magically reduce that consumption

@Neil - The reminder every three months is how much energy you have used. A dynamic display in your front room or kitchen, wherever, is how much you are using. It's pretty hard to see the impact of running your washing machine from a three monthly bill, it's pretty easy from a dynamic display.

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Silver badge
FAIL

Re: Once we know how much energy we're using we'll magically reduce that consumption

I already have a dynamic display - much like Neils', it's that disc spinning like a top that makes me realise I'm chewing through enough power to run a third world village for a week, every time I do my whites.

I don't need to see that in KW/h on a digital display with tactical mapping and a frowny cartoon character telling me off - I already know how much power my washing machine uses.

"A metric shitload".

Steven R

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Once we know how much energy we're using we'll magically reduce that consumption

Again, the spinning wheel doesn't really show you how much you're using, it's also usually in a cupboard in which case it doesn't show you at all what you're using. In a previous life I was an electrical engineer and thought I had a pretty good idea about how much power different appliances used in the house, until I setup a system to log power usage. You learn a lot when you do that, especially for things like washing machines.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: *magically reduce that consumption*

The advantage of the smartmeter to the energy distributor is that they can 'load modulate' at any time. The meters can (presumably) be programmed OTA to lower their trip level to just 13 Amps, or 5 Amps. I'm not talking about a single appliance eventually being made smart - but when remotely your entire house (due to global warming or just generic lack of energy due to underinvestment whatever) is given the option - do you want 3 kilowatts or not? - then a smartmeter is the tool of remote control.

I said (presumably) above as I've been trying to get my hands on one to test in the lab, my domotically installed smartmeters ( I now have 3) were over the air upgraded to 5kW, but to get an isolated specimen for testing is not that easy

(C) Strummer/Jones "Remote Control" CBS S CBS 5293 (1977)

Who needs remote control

From the Civic Hall

Push a button

Activate

You gotta work an' you're late

It's so grey in London town

With a panda car crawling around

Here it comes

Eleven o'clock

Where can we go now?

Can't make a noise

Can't get no gear

Can't make no money

Can't get outta here

Big business it don't like you

It don't like the things you do

You got no money

So you got no power <<<<------- I think this line refers to remote control of the smartmeter???

They think you're useless

An' so you are - puuuuuuunnnnnk!

They had a meeting in Mayfair

They got you down an'

They wanna keep you there

It makes them worried

Their bank accounts

That's all that matters

And you don't count

Can't make no progress

Can't get ahead

Can't stop the regress

Don't wanna be dead

Look out' those rules and regulations

Who needs the Parliament

Sitting making laws all day

They're all fat and old

Queuing for the House of Lords

Repression - gonna start on Tuesday

Repression - gonna be a Dalek

Repression - I am a robot

Repression - I obey

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Silver badge

Re: Once we know how much energy we're using we'll magically reduce that consumption

Indeed it is/does.

Is there any peer-reviewed evidence that a real-time power monitor makes any difference to how people use power? (Ignoring the issues of potentially poor estimation of power usage.)

I can't help but feel that people who have concern for their usage/cost will already be changing things to suit them, but that there are many who cannot change either their usage nor their timing. Irrespective of what time of day you do it, you still need to do the washing...

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Silver badge

Re: Once we know how much energy we're using we'll magically reduce that consumption

Actually, yes!

It's not peer reviewed, but here's my personal experience...

I got one of those little plug-on thingies that clips round the wire in the meter box and transmits current usage to display in sitting room. And now I know what the background usage should be when I'm watching telly or whatever (including fridge, servers, routers etc) and if the reading is unexpectedly high it reminds me that either I've left the lights in the office on, or forgotten to switch off the hob in the kitchen or whatever - and I go and switch them off. Result, reduced consumption - but NO need for the suppliers to knwo what I'm doing on a minute-by-minute basis. I havefound that now I tend to put more washing on the line rather than using the tumble drier, and pop a few logs on the stove rather than switch on an electric fire or central heating when it's a cool evening.

Personally, if they fit a smart meter for me I'll be fitting the box with a Faraday cage!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Once we know how much energy we're using we'll magically reduce that consumption

First hand only, but it does here in Australia because we use the demon air conditioner. Depending on the age and size of the device it can use an awful lot more electricity than you imagine. Example - come home from work one evening and house is sweltering despite being left largely open all day. Put on the new air-con in the lounge. Usage jumps about 700W for the 5kW unit. Switch on air-con in the kitchen/diner area. Usage jumps up 2.4kW for the 4.5kW unit. Turn off kitchen unit, switch on ceiling fans to circulate air.

If it hadn't have been for the real-time meter we would have had a crippling electricity bill for that summer. It's sometimes surprising just how inefficient older appliances can be. Personally I'd rather be slightly uncomfortable or minimise my time in this area than chew 2.4kW/hr. Some people just pay up. I think I'll just get the thing replaced, eventually.

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Black Helicopters

2020

I'd think that by then solar/wind tech will be much more accessible (ie cheap) and the cost of power from the grid so prohibitive that most people will draw very little from the grid, which would mess up the data some what.

And if not then, I'm going to book a spot on Dragon's Den to market what is essentially a massive capacitor to go inline with the meter that smooths out the data.

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Silver badge

Re: 2020

How exactly do you suggest my 7 neighbours and I get sufficient electricity from solar/wind in a tenement flat in Glasgow? How would you ensure all 8 flats in the building all get a fair share of the electricity generated?

What about 20+ storey tower blocks?

Generating your own electricity is fine for River Cottage types with lots of land but doesn't work in the city.

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Black Helicopters

Re: 2020

That's a fair point. Can I sign you up for a iMeterSmooth-o-tron then? I can offer an early bird discount!

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Re: 2020

Agreed. Considering the average usage in our building with 3 appartments having 'lecy heating along with everything else 'lecy and 4 using gas and everything else 'lecy I'd have problems just covering my own use.

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Silver badge

Re: 2020

Theoretical power factor correction?

In college we used to get apparent power consumption down to zero.

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Big Brother

Curiously

Smart meters are only here so they can cut the power off when they want during the shortage that is to come. Hope I'm wrong though...

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