back to article Firms can't fondle your smart meter privates...

Third-party companies will not be able to access data recorded in consumers' smart meters unless consumers choose to let them see it, the Government has said. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said consumers should be able to control who accesses their smart meter consumption data other than in select …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Tom 7 Silver badge

    I'm really looking forward to personalised

    offers that save 30% compared to my current supplier so long as my consumption does not drop below 1kwh pday * when I'm away on holiday otherwise the whole bill goes up by 50%.

    * or whatever figure they manage to glean from my data to screw me sideways.

    I'd rather a set of standard tarifs that can easily be compared and transferred.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: I'm really looking forward to personalised

      I'd much prefer a neutral comparison site to be able to pick the best deal for me based on my usage, personally.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So easy to say, so easy to circumvent.

    The 'leccy company'll simply refuse to deliver unless you give them full control over the meter. Plus, they usually _own_ the meter so legislation shutting them out of their own property is a bit ludicrous, not to mention unworkable. Best simply not go there and keep the meters dumb instead.

    Really, there is no point in trying to "smarten up" things if all you get out of that is legal and ethical quagmires. Smart meters qualify. Any RFID, but especially in legal documents (ID cards, passports), qualifies. So many other things qualify. That our technology can do more than we need it to do is no requirement to make it go all the way. We simply pick what we want from it and stick to that. We can choose, increasingly we have to choose, and we'll soon find ourselves having to build restrictions right into the system to enforce our choices, lest some smartarse re-enables things we don't want, behind our backs, or for our own good, or some silly thing like that.

    This isn't about holding back the tide. It's about governing our technology use with our own choices instead of driving it from mere possibility. "Because we can" shouldn't mean we have to. That we can should mean we do choose, and we have to demand and take, then make that choice. As we see fit, but we must make a choice. We can no longer afford not to choose.

  3. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    "for purposes of tariff comparison"

    It's all a bit weird, really... remember when there was a price per kWh, and perhaps a lower price if you used Economy 7 overnight? Now there are, so I hear, 120 different tariffs.

    Which is patently ridiculous.

    Instead of supplying electricity at the best rate, we seem to be supporting an industry whose main task is simply persuading you (me) to change suppliers. Oh, and our new tariff is great but you have to do it by direct debit so you won't know how much we've charged you until later, and we won't actually measure your consumption since its so much better for us to overestimate it...

    A smart meter is all very well if it simply reports the consumption once a month and the bill is based on that, but the only tariff required is as simple as 10p/kWh, reduced to 5p/kWh between midnight and six (scaled for real numbers, of course).

    Variable charging rates are going to do nothing more for the customer than confuse him; turning hardware on and off depending on the rate requires significant infrastructure changes (and incidentally, I want to run the washer *now* not when the leccy say I can!); and 120 different tariffs is basically insane.

    Remember, no matter which company you pay your bill to, it comes down the same wire from the same national grid. Why the hell this was ever privatised (sorry, I mean of course 'stolen from the people who had already paid for it and handed over to realise a short term reduction in tax) baffles me...

    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: "for purposes of tariff comparison"

      >> Variable charging rates are going to do nothing more for the customer than confuse him; turning hardware on and off depending on the rate requires significant infrastructure changes (and incidentally, I want to run the washer *now* not when the leccy say I can!)

      And *THAT* is what all this smart metering is about. It will save very very little in overall consumption (government officials have already admitted as much), it's there pure and simply to allow variable rate pricing - also known as price based rationing.

      You see, with all those windmills we are subsidising to be built, power supplies are going to get more and more intermittent. We are already up to 4 1/2GW of metered capacity onto the grid - and output can vary in a matter of an hour or two between "F**k all" and "nearly flat out". Not to mention, that many of our peaks in demand (like December 2010) coincide with extended calm periods when there's no wind.

      This means other generators (most notably gas turbine) have to keep turning their output up and down to compensate - so they are having to do a lot more starts and power changes to compensate for variable renewables supplies as well as variations in demand. Of course, the very significant costs of this are external to the windfarms and so are cleverly not included in the cost of wind lecky. The "simple" answer from the pro-wind camp is one of the following depending on who you ask :

      1) wave their hands vaguely and insist that the European super grid will deal with it as we can buy any shortfall from abroad. Except that is, when the rest of Europe is short of power because their windmills have stopped too and they've been too short sighted to build some more nuclear plants.

      2) wave their hands vaguely and insist that "smart metering" will deal with it. What they really mean is the power will be rationed, and unless you have lots of cash then you will be forced to use power when the wind blows rather than when you want to. So when the wind drops, your lecky will go up in price to suppress demand. Of course, no-one (or very few) will admit this even though it is the only way huge quantities of variable wind (and other intermittent renewable) power can be accommodated with current (or likely medium term) storage technology.

      And if that doesn't work, the remote turn off can be used to create rolling blackouts like I recall from the 70s. I know of more than one person thinking in terms of a small diesel genny with exhaust heat recovery ...


    "data protection and privacy laws that are administered by the UK Information Commissioner"

    Administered, but rarely enforced.

    If 200,000 people (and the businesses that serve them) can have their communications covertly intercepted (by BT/Phorm) without any enforcement.... what hope for your privacy if your electricity meter is hacked?

    Expect excuses such as "small scale trials", "no privacy detriment to theory customers", "the ICO are not IT experts so relied on independent experts".

    Do NOT trust the ICO to protect you.

    They are a corrupt, incompetent, sham regulator.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stop the gift wrapping already

    I still don't want one, end of.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    TV Detector Van

    "The researchers said the information could be used to establish details such as when houses are occupied, what appliances were being used and even what TV programme was being shown as a result of the traits revealed in the smart meter data associated with the energy used."

    How can they know from a meter what TV programme is being shown for meter reading? Sorry but if watch ITV / Sky One / BBC 1 they are use same power to there images display.

    Prove it if you can? Because until then I belive in it just like I belive that a TV Detector Van did anything.

    1. Paul Hurst

      Re: TV Detector Van

      They explained that the fluctuating brightness levels of a film or TV show when displayed on a plasma-screen or LCD TV created fluctuating power-consumption levels. This creates a power/consumption signature for a film that might be determined from the readings obtained by Discovergy's technology.

      1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

        Re: TV Detector Van

        "With an atomic microscope taped to your head we can see the atoms in your brain". All well and good, but not practical. I doubt the meters are THAT sensitive.

    2. M Gale

      Re: TV Detector Van

      Easily defeated with a capacitor or a UPS in the right place?

  7. peteh

    Thought SMART meters were to be optional

    I thought our new lords & masters had decided that the use of these meters was to be at the consumers discretion.

  8. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Down

    "unless consumers choose to let them see it"

    Which just means that there will probably be "By signing up to this or by joining that or by reading the other you automatically consent to allow us to read your meter data unless you jump through lots of hoops to decline" clauses turning up everywhere...

  9. xyz

    Road pricing with electrons

    Once these things are installed, you'll be charged more during peak period usage (i.e. the evening), so you can imagine how complex the tariffs are going to get and then the noise of everyone trying to do their clothes washing at 02:30 'cause it's cheap. Plus you also will get the added benefit of having your power cut off at the whim of HMG when there's no food left to keep the electrons happy.

    Mines the one with the magnet hanging off it.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Moronic... or is it just very lucrative (from someone)?

    "Third-party companies will not be able to access data recorded in consumers' smart meters unless consumers choose to let them see it, the Government has said".

    And why the bleeding hell would I ever do that?

    The state of our power supply industry is a perfect example of why the so-called "mixed" economy fails on every conceivable level. It combines the private sector's greed motive, wasteful redundancy, and sociopathic lying with government's apathy, inefficiency, confusion... and sociopathic lying.

    Imagine going to a supermarket, collecting your trolley full of shopping, then finding an array of 89 different sets of checkouts each offering a different combination of prices and special offers. Would that really be more efficient or more consumer-friendly than the boring traditional model where each supermarket has exactly one set of prices and checkouts?

    The worst of it is that comparison sites like uswitch are utterly useless. Sure, they can tell you which company offers you the best deal - today. But since it takes months to switch suppliers, and the best deals often lock you in for a year, and all the suppliers are liable to change all their rates at any time, you are just as likely to find you have left a cheaper supplier for a more expensive one.

  11. David_H

    Thieves invitation

    When I had a Smart meter at my last house, it was very easy to spot when I was away. There was basically no power taken except for the short spikes when the fridge and freezer compressors turned on.

    When I was away on business, I could log into our online readings and tell my wife what time the consumption monsters (children) had actually gone to bed, rather than what time they were telling her they were going to bed!

    If a thief could get hold of the consumption data they would know exactly when was best to burgle you! (There's no smart meter in this house and I aim to keep it that way!)

  12. Gordon 10 Silver badge


    Nothing about DECC using the information for their own commercial purposes? Or being able to opt in or out of the purposes

  13. JaitcH

    It's the VIRTUAL part I don't trust

    QUOTE: "This information is useful to energy suppliers but it is also potentially valuable to a whole host of other organisations too." SUCH as thieves and Second-Storey men?

    I have a modern TaiWan made motor-scooter which is heavily endowed with electronics including a magnificent electronic dash. The travelled kilometres are stored in this module in allegedly non-volatile memory.

    I say allegedly because the distance travelled display (what do you call a meter that records kilometres?) has failed three times in 30,000 kilometres.

    Fortunately, I log my daily usage for expenses so I am aware within 5 kilometres what the distance should be.

    These new 'smartmeters', at least the one I took apart, were all electronic, no moving parts. This means that the only record exists within the computers of the power company which is akin to giving a fox the key-card to the hen house. If they don't trust us, why should we trust them?

    At least with meters with a mechanical component there is an opportunity to recover data independently.

    Your article reported that the German investigators detected a reading every two seconds and since every 24 hours = 86 400 seconds it equates to 43,200 data bursts each day. In a MESH network, with repeater or re-transmission options activated that equates too one hell of a lot of RF transmissions, likely continuous. This is way higher than TETRA (Terrestrial Trunked Radio) system for communications used by Plod, et al.

    I, too, wonder what happened to the opt in / out and suppliers pay discussion. It sounds as wishy-washy as any other Cameron policy.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "what do you call a meter that records kilometres?"

      Same as one that records miles: an odometer (or trip meter).

  14. Daedalus Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Dept. of Energy and CLIMATE CHANGE?

    Oh boy, the greenies are going screw you poor limeys but good! (I'm just pretending to be a Yank, chaps. But you're doomed, I tell ye!).

  15. Inachu


    I am sure some AD will be exclaiming nice deals to have and when you click to accpet those deals some small print will say by accepting these deals means you allow them full access to your meter info.

    No matter the deal I will always be saying no! NO NO!

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A new market, and ROTM

    For a device that would defeat traffic analysis of your meter data.

    The device first attempts to activate useful items (fridge or hot heater), then goes to storage (which can later be reversed and the energy (inefficiently) reclaimed). If you have a plug in electric car it would be somewhat simpler to mechanize.

    Maybe GM could add a few ckts to the Ampera (Volt to Yanks) to help sales.... confuse the electric company. Well, until the two CEOs talked to each other and the Ampera traffic-analysis-defeating option was dropped.

    And what about the cracker nuclear option, Live Free or Die Hard?

    Why cut people's electric off the easy way, by remote control... why not TURN THEM ALL ON and OFF IN A RESONANT PATTERN and drop or fry the HV feed lines with giant circulating currents, tripping power plants offline (long recovery time to resync and bring the leccy net back up)... the research is well documented (originally done to "protect the network" but now useful to "crack the network"). And, after the networks fail, then trash the servers that control the meters so the down time is further extended....

    And, as a bonus, if the perp is lucky the one or more switching stations or lines will be fried and there will weeks of time for recovery as the last two or three employees the leccy companies haven't fired yet are sent out for repair parts..

    Hmm. If the "smart" meters are smart enough, a bit of hacking and they could all mesh up and when the leccy company THINKS it has recovered, the meters all gang up and trash the system again. And again. And again, until the leccy company truck rolls to physically remove the rootkits in the meters to fix them. Oh my DOG! IT'S NOT CYBERDYNE/SKYNET CAUSING ROTM!! Billions of smart power meters ganging up to overpower the meatsacks! You fleshies are doomed, and there isn't any "opt out" box to check either!!

  17. John Munyard

    They think we muppets

    I just love the way these people want to install this technology with all these amazing capabilities and then say "trust us, we've put in safeguards to stop ourselves using it fully"

    I mean, seriously... do you really think I'm that stupid?

    The only "safeguard" which is truly effective is not to put the tech in in the first place. That said, where can I get the software crack that allows you to rig your own readings?

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019