back to article Energy companies aren't going to slurp your personal data. Honest

UK Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has made an assurance that consumers will be able opt out of having their smart meter energy data shared with companies, in a letter to Labour MP Chi Onwurah seen by The Register. In a Parliamentary response last month Rudd initially said: "The data are protected... and they belong not to the …

  1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
    Facepalm

    You think Uber surge pricing is bad....

    ... you wait till you see the price per kWh in Midwinter on still days!

    Dynamic pricing is what they're for. Whatever the pols say.

    1. BillG Silver badge
      Boffin

      Murphy's Rule of Personal Data

      Once they have your personal information, they will ignore laws and EULAs and exploit it at will.

      (I think a Ferengi said that)

      1. Steve Crook

        Re: Murphy's Rule of Personal Data

        Regardless of what's said now, at some point they'll ask (MI5, MI6, Police whoever) to be allowed to slurp and it'll be granted either because terrorism or because climate change. Or whatever we're supposed to be afraid of in 10 years time. Then it'll be the data from your smart thermostat and the monitoring device they've insisted you fit to the toilet bowl.

        Still, as someone's bound to point out, if you've got nothing to hide, what's the harm????

        1. Flywheel Silver badge

          Re: Murphy's Rule of Personal Data

          "...shared with carefully selected Third Parties"

          Personally I don't see why my local Council would need to know what energy I'm using, and which Government Muppet is in charge of "carefully selecting"?

        2. Justicesays

          Re: Murphy's Rule of Personal Data

          Well, I'm sure some bright spark at GCHQ is already working on the program that maps certain energy use distributions to various population segments.

          Not hard to imagine that various cultural groups would use energy differently.

          In fact, I happen to know that a large International IT firm performed a prototype data analysis of this kind of data from an old folks village in order to see if they could determine visitor patterns and if people in the houses were in trouble.

        3. Fungus Bob Silver badge

          Re: Murphy's Rule of Personal Data

          "Still, as someone's bound to point out, if you've got nothing to hide, what's the harm????"

          Well, I don't look good naked anymore...

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOgd9hitEAE

      2. Mark 65 Silver badge

        Re: Murphy's Rule of Personal Data

        Once they have your personal information, they will ignore laws and EULAs and exploit it at will.

        Easier to ask for forgiveness than permission

        1. BillG Silver badge
          Flame

          Re: Murphy's Rule of Personal Data

          Easier to ask for forgiveness than permission

          Motto of the Catholic Church.

    2. energystar
      Holmes

      Re: You think Uber surge pricing is bad....

      Or denying supply at the worst moment [They KNOW when is your home' worst moment].

    3. Secman

      Re: You think Uber surge pricing is bad....

      > Dynamic pricing is what they're for

      Certainly, here in New Zealand, dynamic pricing by paying the spot price for electricity is one of the options afforded to houses with smart meters. And its true; electricity can be eye-wateringly expensive at times, and it can also be close to free. The average bill saving by billed for spot price is something like19% compared to the old-school fixed rate pricing, but if one is willing to change the times one does electrically-consumptive stuff like the washing and tumble drying, one can save much more. There's now a whole generation of folks watching the spot price of juice on their smartphones!

      Smart meters haven't reached my locality yet. But hopefully, before the year is out, I'll be smart metered. Cant wait.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    EON sent out a letter asking me to arrange a date to have a smart meter fitted. After ignoring it there was a follow-up personal phone call asking me to arrange a date.

    At no point was there any indication that it was voluntary. The pleasant lady who phoned seemed to be familiar with people telling her the meters weren't secure and that they gave no user benefits.

    My expectation is that at some point they will decide my meter is "too old" and MUST be replaced. ...and that "unfortunately" they now only have smart meters in stock.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      at some point they will decide my meter is "too old"

      Actually, speaking as an energy company employee, I can assure you that we cannot choose to install a smart meter if you don't want one. Although if your meter needed replacement through fault or life expiry, in the short term you'd probably get a digital non-smart meter, longer term you'd probably end up with a smart meter operating in dumb mode.

      But, for the billionth time, it's not because suppliers want the damned things, it is because Parliament passed a law requiring energy suppliers to try and fit them in all homes by 2020. There's no real business case in my view, but the carbon-obsessives are convinced that they are essential, so you and I as energy customers are on the hook for the whole (likely) £15bn scheme. If you believe in the official approved version of climate change, and the important role of government in saving you, then you will be pleased at the smart meter scheme.

      And if you want to understand why suppliers are pushing them so hard, and not letting on too loudly that you have a choice, you only need to look at the £7m fine that E.ON were hit with by the over-zealous communists at Ofgem a few months back for not having evidence to support why they hadn't installed AMR (near enough Smart meters) for certain categories of business customer by a previous deadline. And reading the Ofgem report on that, the root cause was not lack of trying, but E.ON's shonky record keeping wasn't acceptable proof of those efforts.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge
      Devil

      At no point was there any indication that it was voluntary

      Ah... similar to the Windows 10 deployment method. So who copied who?

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "EON sent out a letter asking me to arrange a date to have a smart meter fitted. After ignoring it there was a follow-up personal phone call asking me to arrange a date.

      At no point was there any indication that it was voluntary. The pleasant lady who phoned seemed to be familiar with people telling her the meters weren't secure and that they gave no user benefits."

      I had exactly the same sequence of events from my supplier too. Including the bit about the her being familiar with the security issues comments. She had a couple of canned answers but eventually took no for an answer quite gracefully but she did keep plugging that the Govt. wants all home to be fitted with one by 2020 and never mentioned once that I could still refuse after that date.

  3. NinjasFTW

    Yes i'm sure consent will be 'explicitly' stated somewhere at the bottom of page 19 of the terms of conditions.

    Energy companies are pushing too hard for this for it to be in anyones interest but their own!

    Either that or the only way to get the best tariff will be to agree to it

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      How is it in the interests of energy supply companies to roll out an already obsolete piece of expensive technology that saves about £5 a year, and costs about £200 a pop? Could it be that they're pushing hard for this sort of reason:

      https://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/nov/09/eon-must-pay-7m-pounds-over-smart-meter-delays

  4. Christoph Silver badge

    We can make money with your data.

    Therefore it's OK for us to use your data.

    Therefore your data is safe with us.

  5. petur

    filter

    surely its comms can be 'filtered'? tinfoil and ferrite to the rescue?

  6. moiety

    How much is that assurance worth? Fuck all, that's how much. Even in the unlikely event of the companies having principles at the start (hah!), there'll be shareholder pressure and possible following legal action if the companies ignore the "revenue stream".

    The only way to ensure that data is not going to be mismanaged is not to give it out in the first place.

    Because smart meters aren't all that popular, it's most likely going to be a frog-boiling tactic...assurances of integrity at the start until a critical mass of meters have been rolled out; followed by incremental changes and ninja edits of the privacy policy until they reach the "fuck you, we're selling all of it to everyone" final position.

    And that's not even factoring in the fact that they will probably be hacked too.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not needed

    It appears that they are not needed and Germany are against using them.

    http://www.powerengineeringint.com/articles/2016/06/smart-grid-technology-may-not-be-needed.html

    The only thing they have going for them in the view of the suppliers, is the ability to switch off the customer when they can't pay because of the added very high green taxes that have been added to the bill, oh, and the not having the cost of paying meter readers.

    Won't the script kiddies have fun when the deployment becomes large enough. They will be able to make pictures in light and dark at night by remotely switching off selected meters in the city because of the total lack of security of the units.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Not needed

      They were never needed, never wanted and are almost universally considered to be a dramatic waste of money and resources.

      The only groups that want them are a set of politicians, civil servants and idiot greenies who somehow think that they serve any purpose whatsoever.

      The only plausibly useful purpose they could have is cutting off the supply remotely. Who benefits from that?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not needed

        The only plausibly useful purpose they could have is cutting off the supply remotely. Who benefits from that?

        If you pay your bill, then you benefit. As in all other commodity retail markets prices are built up from the base costs suppliers face. Bad debt is one of those costs, so if those who won't pay get cut off, there's less added to your bill.

        You might argue about the rights and wrongs of that, but if somebody can pay, but won't, there's no reason not to cut them off. If somebody can't pay, then why should the energy supplier act as an unpaid extension of the welfare state? Government should fix the welfare system to meet the needs of its users.

        Interestingly the German welfare state actually pays benefits claimant an assessed amount for their energy needs, if they choose to spend that on pilsner and Sky, then they're free to get cut off.

        And in Germany far more customers are cut off for non-payment than in the UK (Germany about 0.3m disconnections per year, compared to about 400 per year in the UK). That's the sort of story the lefty hand wringers of the Graun won't tell you, when they're berating UK energy suppliers and moaning about the high cost of energy.

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: Not needed

          Is it really sensible to spend approx. £50-100 at every single customer to install a remote cut-off, when it costs about £100-200 to do a cutoff on-site, or a similar amount to install a prepayment meter.

          Almost everybody pays their bill. The rate of cut-off due to non-payment is miniscule, and in fact what normally happens is installation of a prepayment meter.

          Thus, even if the technology was perfect, it would cost more!

    2. Bluto Nash

      Re: Not needed

      Won't the script kiddies have fun when the deployment becomes large enough. They will be able to make pictures in light and dark at night by remotely switching off selected meters in the city because of the total lack of security of the units.

      Waiting for the first lit penis visible from space once that happens. Just a matter of time.

      1. Jimmy2Cows
        Coat

        Waiting for the first lit penis visible from space once that happens. Just a matter of time.

        No need to wait.

        [grabs torch, goes outside and opens coat]

        ...

        [a lot of screaming, blue lights and police later]

        "Officer, I was just proving it is visible from space..."

  8. adnim Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Nothing to worry about...

    As it is a politician that is giving assurances

  9. Justicesays
    Flame

    The phrase you were looking for was "Opt IN" you waste of space.

    "consumers will be able opt out of having their smart meter energy data shared with companies"

    So, automatically opted-in unless you specifically opt out , which will be presumably one of those triple negative , tick this, but not that, auto reset if the page refreshes tick boxes.

    Along with "specific queries about your bill" giving your supplier the right to read your power usage real-time , I'm not really seeing the data protection.

    Saying "The consumer has control over their own data" is only true if the consumer actually has control over it! You can't stop your meter collecting data on whatever granularity it has set (supposedly every 30 min) , you can only ask your supplier nicely to not upload it more often than they said they would.

    And of course any passing skiddies or crims who want to know if you are in won't worry about your opt in / out preference. Good thing it's all organized and secured by Crapita.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: The phrase you were looking for was "Opt IN" you waste of space.

      "consumers will be able opt out of having their smart meter energy data shared with companies"

      Yeah, funny that. All the fuss over consumer data protection on paper forms and websites where the Govt. have spouted off in favour of the consumer and "strongly encouraging" opt-in, cookie warnings etc, but whenever it comes to data the Govt. wants to be stored either by themselves or by companies who will roll over on request, eg smart meters, NHS caredata, phone data etc, it's always opt-out.

      1. chris 17 Bronze badge

        Re: The phrase you were looking for was "Opt IN" you waste of space.

        While they are opting people in they should automatically opt people into their providers cheapest tarif at all times!

        Tariff ends, auto opt into cheap, not standard tarif. New tarif arrives, auto opt everyone in on it. Simple fix for people not switching.

  10. A Ghost
    Trollface

    In other words

    Get used to it suckers!

    We are going to sell ALL the information we have on you, to absolutely ANYONE that will pay us cash for it (only the government get it for free).

    And there ain't a damn thing you will be able to do about it you stupid fucking mugs!

  11. alain williams Silver badge

    Nightly downloads ...

    how long before someone at the energy company writes a script to find those who are using less electricity than usual - so probably away on holiday - pass that info to his mate Burglar Bill.

    1. A Ghost

      Re: Nightly downloads - they're already robbing us blind

      That's one way of doing it. And that particular exploit is always a possibility by a rogue or disgruntled employee.

      Far more likely however is something like, say, ooh, making an insurance claim, and your insurance company secretly scanning your leccy usage to only find out that when your house WAS robbed, you had actually been away for 32 days, which is a breach of your home insurance policy - you have to notify them if you are leaving your property unattended for 31 days or more. Sorry, no payment for you.

      That is just one way off the top of my head this WILL be abused. The possibilities are endless. But it's for our benefit, right?

      And so we saunter, arms outstretched, to our very own zombie apocalypse...

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    UK Energy Market

    The energy companies don't want the smart meters. They are being forced on us and them by the Government, who need them because our energy market is fucked. We are looking at a net ~25-40% gap in supply and demand by 2025, and importing from the French might be about to get a bit more expensive. Once the energy meters are in then comes the electrical equivalent of hosepipe bans but with added enforcement, unless we get the nimbys to piss off and build a proper mix of power-stations.

    1. A Ghost

      Re: UK Energy Market

      You're probably right. I don't doubt you.

      But don't tell me they are going to pass up a golden opportunity to abuse this.

      I care not for the upbringing of the murderer who kills my child. That he had a hard life, that he had his reasons.

      And so, when you abuse my privacy, invading the sanctity of my home - the last bastion of solace I have - I care not for the original reasons, either.

      Mission creep is no one's friend.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: UK Energy Market

        A Ghost: Oh don't get me wrong, they are gonna cook up all sorts of ways to fuck us, the insurance example given above is more than likely for a start. Don't know if they are going to monitor power factor, but that'll root out people running a few streetlamps in their attic pretty quick.

        1. A Ghost

          Re: UK Energy Market

          The street lamps in the attic thing will get more difficult for sure. But that is the least of all our problems. The big boys doing that stuff already 'bypass' the meter anyway. This will only drive the smaller boys further underground to do it as well.

          Then again, I dare say they already have enough information to work out that kind of thing when all of a sudden that 400w that you had on for 18 hours a day, is suddenly cut down to 12 hours a day. Lots of people do that and get away with it so far. But when the meters are ubiquitous it will just be a case of doing a SELECT FROM sql command, and that will be that. So that is also a nice side effect of this, for them. Pretty hard to explain that one away, hence more people 'bypassing'.

          But that is small potatoes really and I'm not concerned with that. It's all the little ways I (and even they) haven't thought of yet to abuse this, that worries me more. That, and all the blackouts to come, as you mentioned.

          I'm old enough to remember the '70s so I dare say it will be quite nostalgic, candles aglow.

          A new darkness is soon to fall over this land.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: UK Energy Market

      It's not the Government forcing them on the UK, it's the EU forcing them all EU countries. The success of this is questionable...

      http://www.climatechangenews.com/2014/06/19/eu-efficiency-set-back-as-countries-delay-smart-meter-rollout/

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: UK Energy Market

        Like all EU governments the UK had a massive let-out if it wanted it, though - it wasn't compulsory if it was found not to be cost-effective. Given the eye-watering cost of the UK programme, and the negligible projected benefits, that should have taken about 5 minutes if our government wasn't so obsessed with green vanity projects - as long as someone else is picking up the tab, naturally.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: UK Energy Market

          Indeed. I'm currently living in another EU country and we're not doing it here so no it's not being imposed by the EU.

          The idea was approved by our gov via the Council of Ministers and then voted on by our elected MEPs. However it seems it's very optional!

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge

            Re: UK Energy Market

            And I'm living in another EU country and it is being imposed. In fact, if you don't allow them access (very rare as most people live in flats here and the electricity meters are usually in a common area so they just come in and change everyone over) then they have the legal power to come round with a policeman. How's that for optional?

            I suspect that when the government decides to shift the costs onto the companies, the switchover is usually found to be cost effective.

    3. David Beck

      Re: UK Energy Market

      Energy Efficiency Directive, a government but not yours.

  13. Chris G Silver badge

    Smart?

    I'm getting fed up with marketing 'droids and know nothing politicians describing things as 'Smart'

    If Smart TVs were really smart, they would know what you like to watch, when to turn themselves on and when the ad's come on they would know to contact the (smart)kettle via the IoT and tell it to fill itself and tell a couple of cups to insert teabags into each other and get ready for a hot shower.

    I don't see smart meters coming anywhere near that clever so no, not smart!

    When I were a lad which was before they invented Globular Warming, smart was being dressed up in something fancy. It didn't necessarily make you any better but sometimes it could make you feel better, that's about all there is with all these modern new fangled smart things.

    Not really any better but has something to convince people it has added value and they need it, Window dressing might be another way to put it.

    Nurse! nurse! Move me away from the fire a bit I think I'm burning.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Monitor my Leccy usage?

    Good luck with that.

    With more and more homes installing Solar PV arrays (I have a 6KW one already and another 8KW will be installed before the end of the year) and people starting to look at storing it themselves the time I suck power from the grid will be getting less and less. Then the Grid deficiency in capacity could well go away. I'll bet that that is what HMG is secretly wanting to happen.

    Ok, so things like the Tesla Powerwall is expensive, sorry it is 'bloody hell expensive' IMHO, car batteries are cheap. You already have an inverter if you have a solar PV system do a dozen car batteries hooked up to that will soon stop the price gouging on a cold winters evening.

    An alternative is to run your own generator. Noisy though.

    Another alternative would be for the excess leccy generated by your Solar PV array could be used to turn water into Hydrogen and stored for later use and turned back in leccy using a fuel cell or well something like that.

    I'd love to be able to store enough leccy to charge my leccy car without sucking juice from the grid.

    Posting ANON because I get enough PV snake oil salesmen calling me as it is.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Monitor my Leccy usage?

      Posting ANON because....you know nothing, it would seem.

      In the words of Sir David Mackay, late chief scientific advisor to HMG, the idea running the UK on renewables is an appalling delusion. Most of us don't need Sir David to point this out, we can work it out for ourselves, and see the gaping holes in your reasoning.

      It would therefore appear that you are either a deluded tree hugger, or (if you are willing to live with the high cost and intermittency of your "solution") a mad, unshaven prepper. Would you care to let us know which?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Monitor my Leccy usage?

        The problem though as that we are *all* paying for these PV installations through the grants and feed-in tariffs. Those who can afford the up-front cost or are prepared to "rent" their roof-space will benefit to at least some extent while those who can least afford the higher energy costs get to subsidise those who can afford them.

        Has anyone seen a contract from these "free" PV installers? Are there any T&Cs which cover damage to your roof by the installers or additional storm damage, eg strong wind getting under the panels. Does it affect you buildings insurance? Might storm damage to a roof be difficult to claim if yours is the only one damaged in the street and only you have panels on the roof? Insurers are well known for finding any way they can to get out of paying up.

  15. ad47uk

    My energy supplier do not seem to be in a hurry to replace my meter, not that I will allow a smart meter anyway. Not sure what will happen if I change companies as I am thinking of doing before the winter.

    A mate of mine had a smart meter put in, but the thing will not work now, the mast that it used to send a signal have been moved and is further away and now there is not signal.

  16. sysconfig

    EDF keep trying

    to force one of those smart meters on me. And boy are they persistent. But so am I.

    It might be the case that energy companies are supposed to roll that shit out by 2020. That doesn't mean that I'm obliged to help them with that. There's neither a law that requires house owners to have those snoop smart meters, nor is there any law that allows energy companies to deny supply based on what meters are installed. So service will commence as usual, for the time being.

    I don't care how old EDF think my meter is. It counts kwh just fine. They will not convince me otherwise, unless my leccy bill is suddenly much lower than it used to be (meter stopped working).

  17. The Nazz Silver badge

    An insight as to why the program is so costly and will be delayed.

    This morning a close neighbour had one fitted.

    The "operative" spent one hour installing the meter followed by three more hours doing nothing but sit in his van and be on the phone most of that time. Dressed at all times in what appeared to be a very bulky and dayglo green jacket. Even though he was safely parked on her drive.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    These things run on

    2.4gig.

    So, visit here:

    jammerfun.com

    Get a wifi jammer.

    Enjoy when they come to fit and cant get it to connect to fuck all...

    Enjoy more when they have to remove it and put your perfectley fine old one back in place.

    Smart meters my arse....

  19. Johan-Kristian Wold 1

    The main purpose of this is adressing peak loads.

    The long term goal to adress polution, means more and more people will convert to electric cars. That means, there'll be a huge load increase on the grid.

    When everyone comes home from work, parks the e-car and plugs it in for charging, starts making dinner, puts dirty clothes in the washer and starts it - along with all the neighbours, this create a surge, far surpassing the daily load average.

    The national grid is designed for a certain max load. If we exceed that, there is currently no option, but to do rolling blackouts, or get brownouts here and there.

    It's a much easier and better solution to peak demand, and that is to even out the load with surge pricing. If it's bloody expensive to plug in your e-car when you come home from work, you wait plugging it in until you go to bed, and the 'leccy price is low.

    1. elaar

      And then what happens when Peak Load times span the entire evening?

      The real resolution of course is to invest in more power stations, with more research/funding into Nuclear, and upgrading the Grid.

      That 16billion could be better spent elsewhere.

    2. micheal

      It's a much easier and better solution to peak demand,

      Hello, Mrs brown

      NHS Direct here, are you prepared to pay the surge pricing or we'll turn off your baby's IC Unit?

  20. SkippyBing Silver badge

    Completely Optional

    I had a nice letter from Siemens saying I was due a meter replacement and that they would fit a smart one, but I could opt for a dumb one if I wanted. Not their exact words I admit. After I didn't bother ringing them to arrange an appointment they rang me. It turns out if you can't be in on a weekday, because you know actual job to pay the bills the electric people keep sending me, then they just say 'Oh well obviously that's difficult as we don't do weekends, if you do find you're available one weekday could you call us to arrange a fitting?'. Now I could call them, I could also not call them...

  21. a_mu

    OFGEM , one data base for all SMART METERS

    https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/ofgem-publications/86792/meteringsubgroupslides.pdf

  22. Leeroy Bronze badge

    The monitor device

    Has a battery compartment for 3 x aaa in the back. They last around 20 minutes if you dare to unplug the thing from the mains.

    Nothing more to say really. ..

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