Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Death of Privacy by Bits and Bytes

“The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them” is attributed to V. Lenin.

 Fast forward to the “digital everything” age and the 21st century equivalent is coming to us via the “smart meter” and “smart grid” of your electrical energy provider. In this case, your personal privacy is going to be hung out and left twisting in the wind via the invasion of smart-chip equipped appliances into your home communicating with your smart meter and beyond. These chips never sleep and are able to note your usage of electrical power moment-to-moment, whether it is your computer, washing machine, dish washer, heat pump, or electric tooth brush. They communicate your on-off electrical usage patterns to the “smart meter,” which has replaced your traditional analog electric power meter. The smart meter in turn then transmits your electrical usage patterns to the utility company, perhaps to some intermediary data processing center, or to the clandestine computer of some data hacker.

Smart meters are replacing traditional meters, even against your wishes. Over the years, our Virginia legislators have passed enabling laws allowing the mandatory replacement of the old, passive style analog meter with AMIs (Advanced Metering Interface) technology devices. Smart meters with built-in, two-way radio communication ability are automatic robots, noting your energy-usage behavioral patterns. Health issues related to radio-frequency exposure and individual privacy concerns do not seem to have been fully addressed in the regulatory process. The meters are promoted to the public as a means to save on their electric bills. Meanwhile VA legislators have enacted “rate decoupling” energy pricing so that even if you use less energy, the power company will still be able to maintain its revenue stream...use less, pay the same or more?

Health issues are of concern because of the radio-frequency energy emitted by these meters in the frequencies similar to those used by cellular phones. Smart metering systems that use BPL (Broadband over Power Line) technology use different frequencies which have been linked to psycho-acoustic symptoms. Certain individuals are electrically hypersensitive (EHS) and complain of various symptoms when in the vicinity of such meters. The estimated 1 to 5% of the population so afflicted may complain of a variety of subjective symptoms such as skin rashes, eye strain, vertigo, sleeplessness, headache, and irritability. Similar symptoms are reported by some users of cell phones and PCs. Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, one-time WHO Director-General, has described her own suffering from these devices.

The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) certification for the meters is based on traditional, tissue heating safety levels. Other countries such as Russia, Poland, China, and Switzerland now use a “biologically” related guideline in setting “safe” exposure levels. Recommended maximum power radiation guidelines in these countries are reported to be one-hundredth of the FCC guidelines. Concerns with possible genetic and cellular effects, hormonal disturbances, blood/brain barrier damage, and increased risk of certain types of cancers have been cited by the American Academy of Environmental Medicine in their calling for a “moratorium on installation of ‘smart meters.’” As more and more r-f emitting devices such as PCs, cell phones, baby monitors, Wi-Fi hubs, and smart T-Vs are introduced into our individual living space, who is keeping tally on their possible cumulative health effects?

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) may be the one keeping tally on you. CIA Chief David Petraeus spoke at the March 1, 2012 summit for In-Q-Tel, the venture capital firm for the CIA: “The current “Internet of PCs” will move, of course, toward an “Internet of Things”—of devices of all types—50 to 100 billion of which will be connected to the Internet by 2020.” In addition he noted that: “Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters—all connected to the next-generation Internet using abundant, low cost, and high-power computing…”

All that data appears headed to a new super computer complex being built in Utah by the National Security Agency and described as the centerpiece for the Global Information Grid. Advanced mathematical algorithms in those computers might just be sizing up your patterns of dishwasher use and favorite TV viewing habits, and then assign you a place on a watch list for behavior modification.

Lenin had the concept correct; he just did not foresee the digital information age. The 21st century version has the public gladly buying electrical appliances and gadgets with embedded smart chips seamlessly talking to smart meters and the smart grid, and being hung by a digital rope of endless bits and bytes. Charles Battig, MD VA-SEEE Albemarle County VA

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