Smart Meter Surveillance - Scare Mongering or Reality?

This video hosted at Youtube has riled up a huge community over the last year. We will take a look at the play by play claims of this video and the sites with additional relevant concerns.

Smart Meters are being installed all over the US and abroad by power companies. These meters do a lot more than just watch your power usage. They relay real time information about your power usage and upload data to servers, where the data is scraped and analyzed for suspicious behaviour like running a business without a license from your home, or running a marijuana grow house, or to tell law enforcement when you're most likely to be home. Because there is no law preventing it, this data can be disclosed and/or sold to parties without consent from the homeowner, let alone a warrant.

Here is the play by play of the video, with the claim being made vs the reality.

The initial claim is that the Smart Meter watches everything you do, every day.

-False-

All the smart meter really does, is take datapoints throughout the day of your power consumption, with a maximum of about 300 per day or about once every 5 minutes (typically less)

He goes on to claim that these devices can reveal when you are home, when you are asleep, when you are on vacation, when you use a lamp, a power tool, some extra computers, and if you look like you're running a business out of your home.

-Plausible-

If you knew enough about the persons home, you could probably discern these things from these power usage patterns. It would be very hard to tell exactly what you were using in your home because it would just be seen as a change in power consumption.

"It would tell whether you were home or not on the night of the murder."

-Shaky-

It would tell if the power pattern looked like someone was home on the night of the murder. The evidence would be circumstantial.

He makes the claim that the data can be sold or given to whoever the power company sees fit.

-True-

As it stands now, there are no protections governing this data about a homeowner. You do not need permission to sell the data, nor do you need a warrant to hand the data to law enforcement.

He makes the claim that anyone can intercept the radio data "spewing from the side of your house".

-Misleading-

The data can be intercepted from any wireless device, but smart meters use strong industry standard encryption methods. Furthermore, the ad-hoc (relay-style radio) network would make it impossible to discern one persons data over another persons data simply being relayed through the meter on its way to the power company. The data, once intercepted, would be worthless.

He makes the claim that power usage patterns could be used to establish probable cause for raiding marijuana grow houses, and residences operating computer businesses without a license.

-True-

Law enforcement all over the country, especially the DEA, have been using smartmeter data to establish probable cause. Here is an example in Ohio where the newspaper says law enforcement subpeonas have reached sixty per month. However, this technique is used on old meters as well. Someone who is using five to eight times as much power as all of their neighbors is going to raise suspicions regardless of their meter type.

He goes on to show you a method to remove "implied consent" for smart meters by formally asking that it not be added to your home.

-False-

In most U.S. states, this would be little more than symbolic. The power company does have a right to install a smartmeter on your house if you wish to buy power from them. However, this could be changed via legislation.

This article from Stopsmartmeters.org claims that smartmeters can cause pacemaker interference.

-True, Sometimes-

Smartmeters operate on the 900MHz band in the EU and on the 850MHz band (aka 800MHz band) in the US. The same band that was used on wireless landline phones in the 90s (most of those are now 2.4GHz). The assertion that they give off more RF radiation than a cellphone tower are simply false the wireless systems on these antennas peak at just two watts. This is the same peak strength as a typical cellular phone. These systems are dynamic as well, and only use the full two watts when the signal is weak. Since it is impossible to prove a negative, I would need to be shown examples of smart meters giving off more radiation than a cellphone tower. I similarly cannot disprove that cars cannot take you to Jupiter.

Here is a link to a study conclusion that states that 850MHz and 900MHz phones in GSM mode can interfere with pacemakers. However, newer phones using exclusively UMTS signalling do not cause any concern. After some research, there ARE smartmeters out there which operate on GSM at the 900MHz band mostly in the EU and Central and South America. (1)(2) These could interfere with pacemakers and should be a concern for anyone living in a home with a smartmeter that operates on GSM.While there are smartmeters that can operate on GSM in the US, UMTS signalling seems to be preferred. If you have a smartmeter on your home or you are having one installed, and you or a family member has a pacemaker, it is very important to find out whether your particular smartmeter operates on GSM. 

The article at Stopsmartmeters.org goes on to claim that smartmeters can cause cancer.

-False-

This is an extension of the years-long conpiracy theory that non-ionizing microwave radiation emitted from cellular antennas can cause cancer. It is a bad case of post-hoc ergo propter-hoc (people use cellphones, they later get cancer, therefore cellphones must cause cancer). There have been enormous studies looking for exactly this type of causal link, and there has never been conclusive evidence linking cellphones, which you hold against your head, to increased cancer risk. You are at a much greater distance from the antenna in the case of smartmeters, so your zero increased risk would be diminished significantly anyway. (did i just divide by zero?)

Here are links to a series of massive studies that have found no link between cell phone use and cancer. An enormous Danish study spanning 250,000 citizens and 20 years finds no link. The huge INTERPHONE international study finds no link. The World Health Organization reaches the same conclusions from the INTERPHONE study data. Here is a page at the NIH discussing the cellphone issue at length.

Another gem from Stopsmartmeters.org claims that smartmeters are wiping out bee populations, potentially leading to catastrophic worldwide famine.

-False-

Not only is the evidence presented entirely anecdotal with no supporting science... It has been found that neonicotinoid pesticides and parasites, viruses and bacteria are the main causes of Colony Collapse Disorder. In fact, beekeeping professionals don't even consider electromagnetic interference to be "on their radar". Here is a list of the root causes of Colony Collapse Disorder from Beesfree.biz.

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