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Australian Smart Meter Data Shared Far and Wide

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  • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @07:07PM (#41424319) Journal

    Color me surprised. I also expect campaign promises to be kept.

    • said the lone remaining tenant of Sealand...

    • ... don't let any Australians have your data. You don't know where it'll go.
    • Color me surprised. I also expect campaign promises to be kept.

      This isn't the fault of the Victorian government, well not directly.

      The Victorian power market was privatised some years ago and it's a private corporation, Origin Energy that is sharing the data with third parties even thought the government is pushing for the new metres in every home. In this regard it was Origin who broke the law by sharing the data. Expect some political finger waggling but not too much as the Victorian government isn't due for another election for a few years.

      Power and gas prices

  • I am absolutely shocked that, despite the assurances from 'smart meter' fanboys, this data has been handed out to all and sundry just as we expected. How

    • So.... You actually believed them? That is slightly naive isn't it?
      Info=$$$ It is always been that way, and will always be that way. Anyone knows that, so it is a pretty stupid idea to have yourself monitored that way.
      No matter what the fanboys say. Smartmeters are for dumb people (assuming one has a choice).
      What is next, smart-tv's, smart browsers, smart shoes that tell where you are walking?
      • The story left aside ...
        Do you actually know what a smart meter is and what the point is to have one?
        Just curious.

        • Respectively "yes" and "I don't care".
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Tastecicles (1153671)

          apart from the fact that they use the obsoleted GSM900 bandwidth (channels, even) to build their mesh network via neighbourhood hubs and landlines, that said wireless links are two way, which means that not only is information passed back and forth between meters and hubs, so are instructions (such as kill switch). This presents a problem as anyone with a 934MHz transceiver (rare in the UK since they're now illegal to operate, have been since the block was reallocated to GSM) can simply key on CH1 and poten

          • The ones in my area (here in Victoria,Australia) are frequency hopping in the 900MHz unlicensed use band (never has been used for GSM900 here). Jamming one channel won't kill anyones supply. Apparently each meter has an IPv6 based connection as well.

            • Re:Shocked (Score:5, Informative)

              by Tastecicles (1153671) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @01:59AM (#41426241)

              (take it from someone who [still] owns a Cybernet Delta 1): the 934 rigs are notorious bleed boxes. Even with a 1.1 SWR (as close to perfect antenna balance as you'll ever get) you can bleed out over 600kHz each way with a 50W amp. The issue was that the equipment was overpowered and undercooled for what was being asked of it (30 miles on an average day?), the bleed induced by the linear amplifiers cooking themselves very quickly. With anything less than perfect SWR you'll bleed out even further into neighbouring bands.

              FWIW, GSM900 was never widely adopted in the UK, distributors instead preferring GSM1800. The 934 crowd never got their bandwidth back to this day.

              Thing is, GSM never even touched 934. GSM900 uses 890–915 MHz to send information from the mobile station to the base station (uplink) and 935–960 MHz for the other direction (downlink), providing 124 RF channels (channel numbers 1 to 124) spaced at 200 kHz. Duplex spacing of 45 MHz is used. Guard bands 100 kHz wide are placed at either end of the range of frequencies.

              • by tibit (1762298)

                That's a shit piece of linear amp if it distorts the baseband in and of itself, never mind if it distorts more simply because it got hot. I would really like to see the spectra before-and-after the amp. Is the amp you mention a part of the transmitter?

                • no, it's a box the size of a walkman that runs off its own power supply - the string goes rig-amp-SWR meter-antenna in my setup. Without the amp the kit runs 6W and has a range of about 1200 yards. I think the firestick might be a bit duff tho...

                  • by tibit (1762298)

                    It's kinda hard to fit much in the way of filters for 900MHz in a box that size. I'd have probably done a more controlled design where the incoming band (entire thing) is downconverted, filtered, upconverted and then amplified. The main problem with not-very-selective linear amps is that they can't but make the specs of the original transmitter worse. If the 6W transmitter already is close to hitting leakage limits, then the amp can't help with that without processing the signal, and that can't be done at 6

              • FWIW, GSM900 was never widely adopted in the UK, distributors instead preferring GSM1800. The 934 crowd never got their bandwidth back to this day.

                That's not right, surely? The first UK GSM licences (Vodafone and Cellnet) were 900, followed some time later by one2one and Orange on 1800. (At university, I could always tell the people on one2one or Orange. They had loads of free minutes, but the networks were sparse and 1800 was more readily attenuated by masonry, so they had to stand outside in January to make phone calls.)

                The first GSM phones in the UK were 900-only, too: if you were on an 1800 network, you needed to be sure to buy a dual-band phon

                • GSM900 was introduced in 1991, GSM1800 in September 1993 - between those dates the only way to get on the networks was to buy in to stupidly expensive contracts (hell, for that matter there was no such thing as pay-as-you-go back then - that didn't happen until 1996). Otherwise you were stuck on (marginally cheaper) analogue.

                  BT Cellnet (founded as Cellnet Securicor in 1985) rebranded itself as O2 in 2002, and was acquired by Telefonica Europe in 2005.

            • by thogard (43403)

              900 to 914 is not an unlicensed band in Australia. The Amateur radio operators still have 915 but the USM band here is 916 to 929. Vodafone will be very unhappy with you if you are using 914 and you will get to talk to the guys at the ACMA about it.

          • by Macgrrl (762836)

            Are you referring to the Radio Mesh installations or the WiMAX installations? There are two different network infrastructures being deployed in the Victorian Smart Meter rollout, depending on which distributor you are referencing.

            Disclaimer - I spent 2 years working on the Smart Meter installation project involved primarily in change management for the network rollout.

        • by nospam007 (722110) *

          "Do you actually know what a smart meter is and what the point is to have one?"

          Sure, after all, I'm smarter than my meter, although I had to switch my indoor 'tomato' growing installation to gas-lights.

      • Re:Shocked (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Dr Max (1696200) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @08:27PM (#41424797)
        Info does = money and that is exactly why people put up smart meters. Most business have a peak demand charge when they buy bulk electricity, smart metering lets the customer know when and what causes that, so it can be minimized and greatly minimise his bill. It's also useful to the average joe consumer who wants to export power back to the grid. Maybe some one else that wants to buy power at the cheap off peak rate and store it in a battery bank for when the price is high. It allows for all kinds of different billing methods that can greatly reward taking stress of the network when it needs it. Smart metering is all about saving money by knowing what the network is doing. Everything you mentioned already exists, smart tv's that record the shows it thinks you'll like so you don't have to, smart browsers that remember your history have been around since the internet started, and smart shoes have been brought out by Nike for exercises freaks. Knowledge is power for all who embrace it. That said I most defiantly can not condone what Origin is doing with the customer's data, and can only assure you that they are the only retailer doing this. Choose the other guys (it's completely up to the customer) and they have very strict rules in place about who gets access. Origin are giant dicks, giving the rest of us a bad name. We have enough problems already trying to convince all the idiots that these setups have no more radiation than an iphone and their old meter.
      • by causality (777677)

        So.... You actually believed them? That is slightly naive isn't it? Info=$$$ It is always been that way, and will always be that way. Anyone knows that, so it is a pretty stupid idea to have yourself monitored that way. No matter what the fanboys say. Smartmeters are for dumb people (assuming one has a choice). What is next, smart-tv's, smart browsers, smart shoes that tell where you are walking?

        To see these things coming before they actually happen is a great way to be told that your tinfoil hat is too tight.

        That's why this kind of understanding (of what should be obvious) is so rarely appreciated. It belongs to a small minority who know their reasoning is sound with no concern for popularity. That's not the way I would have it, but that's the way it is.

        • by Dr Max (1696200)
          I am all for no video camera network and no government enforced internet snooping but this is hardly the case with smart meters. I work for a smart meter company (not these douches in question) and your making it sound like we have this god like power, when there is a lot less data there than you think which can be very easily masked by a number of things. All we see is a usage per half an hour, and that figure could be made up of any number of different appliences. Yes you could make assumptions based on t
          • by causality (777677)

            I work for a smart meter company (not these douches in question) and your making it sound like we have this god like power, when there is a lot less data there than you think which can be very easily masked by a number of things.

            I appreciate what you're saying, though you must understand that you are not the most unbiased source of information.

            That you wouldn't abuse what power can be had, does not mean Origin is the only one who will. They are proving that it takes much, much less than "god-like power" to hassle me and betray my trust. I do not hire an electric utility to rat me out to debt collectors. I hire them to provide electricity. I give them money, they give me units of electricity, and our relationship should end t

            • by Dr Max (1696200)
              If your really so worried that some one is going to use the amount of electricity you used in a 30 minute interval against you in some way; Then good news friend it's never been easier to go off grid, solar panels, wind generator, and batteries are at an all new low price. No one is forcing you to buy their electricity.
      • I believe the OP was an example of "sarcasm".

  • Lovely (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tqft (619476) <ianburrows_au@ya ... minus herbivore> on Saturday September 22, 2012 @07:11PM (#41424345) Homepage Journal

    Data security is such a good thing. Good thing the hackers didn't get it.

    And with the data retention proposals of course no isp is going to be tempted to defray the cost with either on-site or outsourced datamining. And all storage is onsite and under their control.

    From the FTA
    "An Origin spokesman said the portal was fully compliant with Australian privacy legislation. He said the additional information requested about each household ''adds to the richness of the Origin Smart experience''.

    Customer information can only be accessed by staff involved in billing. He said the electricity retailer only shared information with third parties when they had a ''legitimate business need to do so in order to meet our service obligations to our customers''."

    "with third parties" the easiest way for the NSA to get all the data in the world would be to sell cheap datamining services as the Narly Stats Advisers.

    And government and business wonder why people don't trust them.

    • by strack (1051390)
      they dont care that people dont trust them.
    • adds to the richness of the Origin Smart experience

      ... We are talking about a utility company, right? I expect this kind of puffery for consumer products and services, but this is absurd.

      • The Victorian electricity market is broken into wholesale and retail electricity companies, 2 out of 3 salesmen who knock on my door want me to swap retail providers. Competition is so fierce (and generally fucking annoying) that the state government muttered something about outlawing door to door electricity salesmen earlier this year. Adding the smart meters allows home owners to sell power they generate to "the network".
  • *grabs some popcorn* I'm sure a lot of people will immediately jump all over this company for sharing the data, even collecting it, and long rants about the usefulness, ethicality, or lawfulness, of said activity. None of that really matters terribly much though. Computers record information, and computers are becoming a part of everything that requires electricity. There's microprocessors now in toasters. The question isn't whether or not information can or should be collected, but how it's used.

    Knowledge

    • by 0123456 (636235) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @07:14PM (#41424357)

      The question isn't whether or not information can or should be collected, but how it's used.

      Information that isn't collected can't be abused.

      • by TubeSteak (669689) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @07:25PM (#41424427) Journal

        An Origin spokesman said the portal was fully compliant with Australian privacy legislation. He said the additional information requested about each household ''adds to the richness of the Origin Smart experience''.

        Legislation that isn't specific essentially ensures that data will be misused.
        Then again, to the people who passed the law, that was probably a feature, not a bug.

      • Information that isn't collected can't be abused.

        There is an entire field of mathematics dedicating to filling in the blank when that happens. Sometimes the absence of information says more than its presence... ask any police officer. And as for it not being collected -- remember the TSA body screener fiasco? Anything with a microprocessor, a sensor, and programmable logic can be modified to collect information, and most probably without your knowledge, even if it says it doesn't on the tin. And the other thing, which many slashdot readers can attest to,

        • I'm unusual enough that whatever I'm doing is probably an outlier in terms of marketin usefullness, whether it's power consumption, spending habits, location, etc. It pisses me off that data is being collected about me whatever I do, but I would rather focus my energy fighting other battles.I agree with you that its best to just assume everything that can be monitored/logged is and act accordingly.

          If enough people are bothered by this, I wonder if it is ecomomic for someone to make a load balancing system t

          • by Macgrrl (762836)

            I'm unusual enough that whatever I'm doing is probably an outlier in terms of marketin usefullness, whether it's power consumption, spending habits, location, etc.

            That's OK, Homeland Security has flagged you as a terrorist and are coming around to investigate your buying habits more closely citizen.

        • So, legislation can't prevent logging, tracking, and retention, but it can prevent mining, hacking, and leaking?

        • by EdIII (1114411)

          It's better to just assume everything is being logged and recorded; And then pass laws limiting its use -- that way, it'll never become widespread or systematic.

          Sounds fine in theory, but there will always be extremely powerful entities that will not limit their use. Like governments for instance.
          Legislation after the fact does not mitigate the risk, particularly from the most dangerous entities.

          What about less dangerous entities, but nonetheless, very disruptive with their actions like corporations? What if a company could get their hands on that data and deny access to services and products? Like insurance carriers? Sure the law may say no, but how would you

      • ...or stolen. The more parties have possession of sensitive data, the higher the chance it will be "lost" or stolen by those that WOULD use it against you.
    • by EdIII (1114411)

      We only learn one way: By fucking it up.

      Uh huh. That's not fucking true. Plenty of men have been fucking up for years trying to keep women happy and still have not learned how yet....

      Perhaps you meant the opportunity is there to learn, but we often fuck that up too.

      • by tqk (413719)

        Plenty of men have been fucking up for years trying to keep women happy and still have not learned how yet....

        Hey princess, the same can be said about women in the opposite direction. We're not the ones who're still wearing warpaint.

  • by fish waffle (179067) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @07:13PM (#41424353)

    ...Customers can provide information about the size of their home, whether they rent or own, the number of adults and children in their family, if anyone stays in during the day and what appliances they own....

    If you don't want information to get out, don't give it out.

    • Which is fine for the above information, but in many places we have no choice but to use smart meters.
      • by 0123456 (636235)

        Which is fine for the above information, but in many places we have no choice but to use smart meters.

        Of course you do. Buy a generator.

        You're going to need one pretty soon when they start ramping down the amount of electricity you're 'allowed' to use.

        • by Chaonici (1913646)

          "You're going to need one pretty soon when they start ramping down the amount of electricity you're 'allowed' to use."

          Will that be before or after the lizard men activate the mind control chips that we all got with our flu shots?

          Or do you actually have electricity rationing in Australia?

          • by Macgrrl (762836)

            Or do you actually have electricity rationing in Australia?

            Answering this seriously, much of the smart networks design - of which smart meters is only a very small component of - is about load balancing the systems to supply energy more efficiently without needing to build excess generation capability. Most of the Victorian electricity generation market is scaled around a handful of hot days every summer (the day of the Black Saturday bushfire it was approximately 48C in Melbourne). In hot weather people crank up the air conditioners, fans, etc... and consume signi

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 22, 2012 @07:17PM (#41424377)

    Resistance is V/I.

  • Follow the money. If someone can make money from this, a reason to justify it will be constructed. Money will be used to stop child sex traffic, improve education, lower tax bills, etc.
  • by onyxruby (118189) <onyxruby AT comcast DOT net> on Saturday September 22, 2012 @07:36PM (#41424485)

    You took a perfectly good cause and ruined it in the name of profit!!!! You have just fed the tinfoil hat crown and ruined smart meters world wide for years to come.

    Let's think about this? Hey spouse, want to get a new smart meter? Hell no, I do that and the government will spy on me, the debt collectors will use it against me, do I look like I was born yesterday?

    No one is going to want one of these things attached to their house now knowing how they have actually been used. Why the hell couldn't you leave well enough alone and use it for what it was actually meant for?

    Smart meter technology could have been one of the greatest real world technological green technologies we have seen in a long time. Instead some short sighted, can't see the next week because tomorrow is in the way greedy bastards ruined it to sell their customers out to debt collectors!

    Words cannot begin to describe how short sided and idiotic these people were. I'm sorry they just can't.

    I've spent a fair amount of time in Melbourne, I thought well of the people down there. What the hell happened?

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      You took a perfectly good cause and ruined it in the name of profit!!!
      The only perfectly good idea was to sell Australia on ripping out spinning meters and replacing them with expensive networked smart meters vs digital import/export meters.
      All with the dream of not having to send so many expensive police cleared workers into suburbia,
      As for "technological green technologies"? or "actually meant for?" If people have solar they can do their own electrical audits or get a wireless clamp over their supply
    • by pubwvj (1045960)

      I'm not sure if you're being sarcastic or serious. I hope sarcastic.

      • In a utopian world, smart meters could get you motivation to use electricity on non peak hours. In our corporate screw you over the best they can legally world, smart meters is just an excuse to jack up rates and confuse consumers. Right now we just have cost per kilowatt hour, and you can simply choose your electric company based on the cheapest offer. Throw in the smart meters, and the most expensive company could have both the lowest rates for peak and offpeak: All they need is a sneaky curve where yo
    • by cvtan (752695)
      You will have to have it or they will raise the rates. Your significant other, who doesn't care about privacy ("We're not doing anything wrong...") will demand it.
      Next is that little Progressive Insurance dongle that sits on the OBDII port in your car to examine your driving habits.
    • by Mashiki (184564)

      There was nothing "green" about smart meter technology. It was always about ToU billing and how much someone could screw you over at the end of the day.

    • Ah, so you belong to the school of thought that holds that if only human nature wasn't in the way, and if everybody just did what you want them to do, the world would be a wonderful place. Well, I guess we are only up to hundred billion examples that show that people act based on incentives, so obviously you need some more evidence before you actually start believing it. The only way to get people to not do something that can be profitable to them, but harmful to the society is to make it not possible for t

    • by mjwx (966435)

      Smart meter technology could have been one of the greatest real world technological green technologies we have seen in a long time. Instead some short sighted, can't see the next week because tomorrow is in the way greedy bastards ruined it to sell their customers out to debt collectors!

      I dont know much about the Victorian smart metres because I live in Soviet Western Australia where the Government controls power company but I would like a device that would give me a log of my power usage by circuit. When

  • by bzipitidoo (647217) <bzipitidoo@yahoo.com> on Saturday September 22, 2012 @07:44PM (#41424533) Journal

    Screw the privacy concerns, I want to know how I'm doing. How much energy are those blokes using per unit of area and per home? What percentage of their energy goes towards climate control?

    For myself, we are in a 2200 sq ft house in north Texas with gas furnace and water tank. House was built in 1977. Per year, we use between 6500 and 7000 kWh, and about 60 MCF of gas. About 50% of that is for heating and cooling.

  • All we get is the first sentence of an article copy-and-pasted as a summary now? Does the submitter think this is a good thing or a bad thing? Why should we care about this? What are the implications?

    Can't we just turn the whole thing over to a bot and be done with it?

    • by causality (777677)

      All we get is the first sentence of an article copy-and-pasted as a summary now? Does the submitter think this is a good thing or a bad thing? Why should we care about this? What are the implications?

      Can't we just turn the whole thing over to a bot and be done with it?

      No, we can't. At this time, with the current state-of-the-art in software development, it's just too damned difficult and expensive to cause a bot to randomly produce so many spelling and grammatical errors.

      Spelling errors alone would be easy, but not grammatical errors such as using a correctly spelled word in the wrong way or understanding the importance of context. We cannot easily produce this kind of AI.

  • I think for anyone paying attention to the subject of privacy, it is pretty apparent that tyrannical voyeurism is a State Vice -- behind which are packs of ravenous fiends that will stop at nothing short of pharisaic omniscience. Long before one method of 'evasion' (self defense) becomes popular among the masses, these fiends are devising new countermeasures to foil them. Already, they want to spy on us through household devices [networkworld.com]. It seems a time is coming when options are scarce and opting out will be diffi
    • by causality (777677)

      I think for anyone paying attention to the subject of privacy, it is pretty apparent that tyrannical voyeurism is a State Vice -- behind which are packs of ravenous fiends that will stop at nothing short of pharisaic omniscience. Long before one method of 'evasion' (self defense) becomes popular among the masses, these fiends are devising new countermeasures to foil them. Already, they want to spy on us through household devices [networkworld.com]. It seems a time is coming when options are scarce and opting out will be difficult or impossible [adorraeli.com]. And all they seemingly need to do to pacify us is whisper in a soothing tone words like "transparency"". Yes, transparency, a simplex protocol for the masses.

      The scary part is, the Panopticon was intended to be a prison.

      In the near future, prison won't be place you send people to. It will be a place you extend to them. Naturally you will be guilty until proven innocent, and since you cannot prove a negative, well, that narrows it down. After all, you might be up to no good.

  • Fuck your privacy! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Vinegar Joe (998110)

    This is about conserving energy and Saving The Planet!

  • I imagine some burglars could find this data quite useful, knowing which houses are empty.

  • 1984... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BoRegardless (721219) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @08:26PM (#41424787)

    is here!

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      Did you just wake up from hibernation? 1984 has been here for many years now. We welcomed it with open arms.

  • by CuteSteveJobs (1343851) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @08:56PM (#41424953)
    People think they have Privacy Laws and the Privacy Commissioner protecting them. They don't. Like much the government does to reassure the public, they are deliberately weak and there for just for PR value. If you ever try and use them you will find they have all the whipping power of a wet lettuce leaf: The worst thing the Commissioner can do is write a letter to a company breaching your privacy saying "Please don't do that." There is no fine. http://www.theage.com.au/technology/technology-news/youre-being-more-closely-watched-20120916-260ko.html [theage.com.au]

    Add to that Nicola Roxon's plans to snoop on Australians Internet Usage. Do you really trust public servants to keep your private that information secret? The only privacy they care about is hiding their mistakes from public. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/national/police-fight-to-keep-corby-secrets-20120922-26dni.html [canberratimes.com.au]

    As for your privacy, they don' think you should have any: http://au.ibtimes.com/articles/380194/20120904/ag-nicola-roxon-bats-data-retention-laws.htm [ibtimes.com]
  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @09:32PM (#41425135) Homepage

    I had to opt out of Pacific Gas and Electric's online billing system and go back to paper bills when they changed their EULA to allow more "disclosure". If I just buy power from them, they're subject to regulatory rules, enforced by the California Public Utilities Commission. But they wanted me to sign up for an "online account", which isn't regulated. If you don't sign up, they're not allowed to redistribute your "smart meter" info. If you sign up, you've consented to distribution to "affiliates".

    I strongly recommend opting out to PG&E customers (California, Nevada) who are concerned about privacy issues.

  • at the time when the Whitehouse was pushing for the utilities to have an open portal where people could go and read their smart meter's data for exactly this reason. Any reasonably astute burgler, or home invasion robber, would be an idiot not to try to get access to this information. True, there are a lot of stupid criminals out there, but there are stupid criminals with smart friends.
  • We love New Zeland.

  • There are a few interesting facts about this smart meter rollout here in Victoria. First of all they require a patent encumbered implementation that is specified in the law. You can't buy the chips to do that anymore since the new chips have the patent problems removed. A friend who owns a patent on some of the technology hasn't seen any payments and he know of about 20 other patents they are violating.

    Power bills are going up but wholesale power generation costs are now about $.025 per kWH. About 1/4 of

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