Is your power company spying on you? And is that good? A ‘So, Bob’ podcast

Does your power company know when you get home at night? Does it know how often you use your microwave oven?  In this week’s week’s episode of So, Bob, we examine the sometimes controversial topic of smart meters. They have great potential to help cities manage the increasing power demands of the digital age, and help power companies respond more quickly to disasters. But they also raise thorny privacy issues. In our first minisode, producer Kelly Kolff and I discuss the promise of smart meters and their dark side.

Click play below to listen, if a button appears, or go to iTunes or Stitcher.

Here’s some added notes about smart meters:

Last year, a federal court ruled that consumers retain their expectation of privacy around smart meter data. This case is important because it limits the “third-party” doctrine explained in the podcast — the notion that once you give your data to a company, you might as well have given it the government. The EFF explains:

Here is the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s legal argument in the case, which involved a non-profit suing the city of Naperville, Ill. over installation of smart meters.

And here is the federal judge in the case describing the potential for smart meter spying:

“A refrigerator, for instance, draws power differently than a television, respirator, or indoor grow light…By comparing longitudinal energy-consumption data against a growing library of appliance load signatures, researchers can predict the appliances that are present in a home and when those appliances are used.”

Heavy reading on what information smart meters actually collect.

Wait, how do I know if I have a smart meter? With pictures.

Finally, could technology fix this problem? Yes. This paper describes a way to obscure smart meter data.


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About Bob Sullivan 1637 Articles
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.

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