Smart meters & devices – How much do you value your privacy at home?

The UK’s Smart Meter programme continues make the press, see here for example. Things are unsurprisingly late. Consumers, who’re paying for the £11bn programme through current energy bills, can apparently expect savings of less than £1 a week on bills by 2030. The utility companies haven’t been particularly consumer friendly in their rollouts. There’s been lots of pressure tactics applied to get consumers to accept a Smart Meter installation. Indeed, the best energy deals today mean a consumer must accept having a Smart Meter. The Badger has proudly resisted and doesn’t have one!

Why? Doesn’t the Badger want to save money or the planet? Is it because the Badger is intimidated by modern technology? Or is it just the Badger’s a dinosaur and resistant to change? Good questions. The Badger’s very pragmatic and objective, very technology, environment, and budget aware, and very conscious of how tech is transforming society, so what’s the real reason for not having a Smart Meter? Simple. The Badger values his privacy.

Smart Meters and other smart devices in your home provide granular data that can be analysed to determine what you do inside your home. That’s nectar to organisations and marketing companies who, let’s face it, employ expert lawyers to ensure they can maximise their benefit from the data they capture from you and your home. Articles from Bloomberg and the Daily Mail are worth a read. They reinforce that we must not be naïve when it comes to how such data is used.

The Badger is an advocate of ‘An Englishman’s home is his castle’. Smart Meters and smart devices encroach on that being the case. Unlike twenty years ago, today’s smart technology means you no longer really have privacy in your own home. Others will pooh-pooh that statement and assert legal protections are in place, but should you trust that’s proven to be the case with the companies involved? Hmm. The only safe way of keeping what you do within your home private is not to have Smart Meters or devices like those in the Bloomberg article in the home in the first place.

So, there you have it. The Badger values privacy within his home way above any future saving of £1 a week – a loaf of bread – in energy bills. In fact, the Badger’s significantly reduced home energy bills without a Smart Meter and still remains an advocate for technology that preserves individual rights, freedoms and brings real benefit to society. Does the case for the UK Smart Meter programme really stack up? Views differ. All the Badger knows is that ‘the Badgers home is his castle’. Smart inanimate interlopers will be resisted until privacy within the home can be guaranteed…

Burglary, the Police, and ‘Smart Doorbells…

The Badger’s been burgled! The Police were great. They attended swiftly, established the culprit wore gloves, and went door to door to see if neighbours had seen anything suspicious. They hadn’t, so the attending Pc rightly set expectations that little could done without tangible leads. The Badger is thus one of the UK’s 2019 burglary statistics! For info, there were ~423,000 UK burglaries in 2018, much lower than 10 years ago, but the clear up rate is low.

The attending Pc was very professional and sported personal technology that included a body camera, a radio, and a rugged smartphone that was used to collect details and statements in the comfort of the Badger’s lounge. Potential security improvements were discussed, and the Badger asked if ‘smart doorbells’ – tech that alerts your smartphone – would help. Apparently, simpler, cheaper, and more traditional items probably provide better deterrence. Why? First, because most burglaries are opportunistic, not targeted. Second, because burglars are as tech savvy as the rest of us and can take measures to protect themselves. And third, alerts on your smartphone to ‘stranger-danger’ may increase your anxiety because the burglar is not actually prevented from entering if you’re not at home. Having images is useful provided they lead to improved culprit capture and prosecution, but the jury’s out on that front. The Badger jokingly said that he’d deploy some old-fashioned tech – bone-crunching animal traps. The Pc’s response was clear. Advice was expressed in a way that it was not to be argued with!

The Police were great throughout. The Badger felt well handled, a marked contrast to recent interactions with some major businesses. The Pc’s tech supported all aspects of the incident process smoothly and the Badger sees why the Police need even more tech and systems to catch ‘bad people’ and deal well with victims. Currently there’s a fuss about police trialling of Automated Facial Recognition (AFR), and the likes of Liberty and Big Brother Watch routinely challenge the establishment on surveillance, privacy, and civil liberties. In reality, however, we already live in a surveillance society. CCTV is everywhere. So is automated number plate recognition. Supermarkets track our grocery habits and social media giants know and sell everything about our lives. The surveillance and privacy genie is already out of the bottle and the Police need all the tech and systems they can get to keep us safe in the modern world. Surveillance by democratically controlled authorities is much better than the uncontrolled ‘surveillance capitalism’ regimes – a term from a radio item this morning – of the giant social media companies!

The Pc who dealt with the Badger went on to apprehend three youths who robbed a corner shop at knife point. The Pc emailed the next day apologising for the delay to a follow-up letter due to this! The Badger was gobsmacked. Support your local police officers; they deserve more respect than they get…