Questions about my Smart Meter

Here’s the text of an email I sent my energy supplier today, setting out 14 questions their leaflet doesn’t even come close to answering. Am I too paranoid?

Dear [Energy Supplier],

I am writing about your recent invitation to install smart meters for my energy supplies.

I decline your offer for now, and in the foreseeable future, until a number of things change, both in your documentation, your infrastructure, and the smart meters themselves. Please do not send me further invitations until there have been substantial changes and clarifications, as I have detailed below.

The short version is this: you haven’t finished your homework yet, and I’m pretty disappointed to have to play the role of “teacher”.

Thank you for your attention. If you have time, and are interested, please read on.

Kindest regards,

Problems with Smart Metering

Benefits:

The only benefit I can usefully see is that you can take my measurements without having to send a physical person to my house. That’s a benefit for you, but I see no mention of your sharing it with me.

You allege, in your leaflet, that “I can monitor my energy consumption” [all day long]; where did you get the idea that I don’t already have enough to do without worrying about a kWh here or there? My consumption is determined by a balance between need and capacity to pay. Only.

The question of estimated bills, or not, is also less than relevant. A smart meter would only change the cash flow a little; it would not alter the final settlement.

Data security:

This is the area I find most fault in. Many questions are unanswered. For example:

1. Precisely what method is used to secure the data in transit from my smart meter to your servers? (Your Data Charter says “The meter readings we collect from smart meters will be protected using a range of security measures, including those agreed with the Government”. That is laughably credulous and simplistic; everyone know that the Government doesn’t have a clue where IT is concerned.)

2. Precisely how does the smart meter authenticate the server (to ensure that the data is not being transmitted to unauthorised third parties)?

3. When the data is in your servers, how is it protected against unauthorised network access?

4. When the data is in your servers and their backup media, and in physical transit between your data centre and off-site backup, how is it protected against unauthorised physical access?

5. How is data in your servers protected against authorised access for unauthorised purposes (for example, a rogue employee sharing half-hourly measurements with potential burglars)?

6. What access audit trails are in place to ensure that (in the event of authorised access subsequently found to be for unauthorised purposes) illicit access can result in successful prosecution (and thus acting as a deterrent to such illicit access)?

7. Can the smart meter be set to limit the interval between requests for measurements (for example, refuse to provide more than one measurement per week)?

Continuity of supply:

8. Your leaflets say nothing about whether the smart meter has, or not, a smart switch, allowing you to disconnect the supply remotely. Do your meters have such a switch?

9. Assuming they do, what security measures are in place to prevent unauthorised persons from disconnecting my supply (including, but not limited to, agents of hostile foreign governments)?

10. Assuming they do, what guarantees are in place to prevent arbitrary disconnection for debatable causes (such as load-shedding)?

11. Assuming they do, are you prepared to enter into a contractual undertaking, with severe penalties, that my supply will be disconnected only in an emergency, or after I have been shown, personally and face-to-face, a court order authorising such a disconnection?

Data protection:

12. Your Data Charter is unclear on my ability to select the third parties with whom you share my readings. With the exception of the Police, am I able to opt out of any other sharing?

13. With regard to requests for information from the Police and other authorities, do you undertake only to provide data to the Police in response to a search warrant signed by a Justice of the Peace, or are there any other “arrangements” I should be aware of?

14. What requests from other government agencies do you contemplate acceding to, under what circumstances, and with what notifications to the end user (me)?

Sorry to be so long-winded, but you can see there are numerous things you need to be able tell those who are sufficiently curious. Without (good!) answers to a substantial percentage of these questions, I will never consent to a smart meter.

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