Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The high cost of privacy

I was on the telephone this afternoon with a very nice spokesperson from CMP, or Central Maine power.  No need for "ah-hah's" despite the homey specific name, the whole state of Maine's electric is provided by either CMP or Bangor Hydro (miniscule in comparison customer-wise, to CMP)

Actually, CMP's parent company is out of Spain.

Anyhow, CMP received lots and lots of taxpayer dollars to upgrade "The Grid" a year or so ago.  Then they showed up at everyone's doorstep with a "digital meter" to replace the old analog ones, with the disk that spins around and sets of dials from 1-9 that a meter reader had to come and manually read your KW usage every month.

A truck pulled into my driveway, and I greeted the visitor in the usual(unusual) fashion of dashing out in whatever grundge I was currently wearing and probably barefoot, to be greeted with,

:"I am here to install your digital meter."

uh, no you're not

"I don't want one,"  I said.

"Well, fine, but you have to sign this form blah blah blah grrr grrrr grrr!"

The blah blah blah part was explaining to me that, if I refused, I would be charged a non-standard meter fee of $12 per month.

Fine, so be it.

The grr-grr grr was because I could not be bought, at least not cheaply.

My alert antennae went to high.

What is in it for CMP that I have to pay $12?

I wasn't the only one miffed off. Lawsuits ensued. A miniscule of hope that CMP would have to refund those charges that were steadily racking up.

The lawsuits focused on Health risks. Electro-magnetic exposure from digital meters.

In the meantime, bee-keepers started experiencing colony collapse disorder. The government had already switched all the TV airwaves to digital as well.  Were these signals bad for health?

Hey, I have a cell phone and smoke and had radioactive iodine treatment and grew up a sun worshipper. Do my readers truly believe I was worried about a measley little digital meter for health reasons? :P

Follow the moneybaby.

I have to admit to a certain amount of naivety, or maybe it is denial of my borderline paranoid personality, so I figured my $12 a month was paying the meter reader. Who did a really crappy job compared to my old meter reader, who used to hop determinedly out of the truck and march up to the meter for the monthly reading, no matter if a pack of bullmastiffs or protective geese were determined to prevent it. (Ok, I used to joke that the bullmastiffs were harmless unless you were worried about getting licked to death, lol, but they looked intimidating)

The current one is a wuss and afraid of earthworms in the lawn.  I swear she was demoted from the office.

Her prissiness aggravated me so much one day, I said, "heh, gotta earn your 12 bucks when you come here!"

I felt sort of proud of my stance, paying my 12 to keep someone in a job.  Because the digital meters transmit, they don't have to come and read them.

Well, I had a dispute this month over an estimation on my bill. They estimated me around Feb 14, and when I read my (analog) meter this afternoon, two weeks later, I had yet to reach where they said I was Feb 14.

This little trick is two fold, first, I would have to anty up now for electricity I haven't used yet. Second, when the next actual reading comes in, I could possible be below the minimum 100KW, which is  charged much higher than over 100KW. This happened to me one year, and I pursued it much to the chagrin of the guy on the other end who finally credited me the 75 cents difference. I was making a POINT.

As I was attempting to do today, but the point was rather mute since I have yet to receive the bill following the estimation.  She argued and argued there was no way I would use less than 100 KW in the next two weeks, but it will be very close and we shall see. :D *runs around shutting off all the lights* j/kLOL

Somehow we got on the subject of digital meters. Oh year I was bitching about my bill. $180 dollars a year not to have a digital meter.  My grrrr now. 

"Is it for health reasons?" she asked.

"Because, as a consumer, outside work, I did my own research and they put out not more than a baby monitor, and it's outside your house so I decided that was fine!" she said.

"Actually, I did it for privacy reasons," I told her.

(no practiced response so this was greeted with silence)

"Look," I said," the way the meter is set up, it could determine what time I get up by when the coffee pot goes on, it could determine what time I go to bed at night, by when the TV goes off. This is set up to measure time of use, and it is no big stretch to say it can also identify what type of appliance you use and what time it occurs. "

"oh no, they can't do THAT." she replied.

"The old analog time-of-use meters were set up to monitor three time brackets and how much you used during that set of time, not specific to devices."

Then she realized what a can of worms that opened,(because we were not talking about privacy issues with the old analog meters) and started with, "and I can go out and look at my digital meter and see when there is high usage and then determine what is going on."

Duh, I didn't bother to point out to her that with the old meters you could see how fast the wheel was moving and wonder what the heck was drawing all that power. Actually, the wheel is a more visual tool.

"No," I said," well that is good that we all cut our usage and pollute less (more squirming on the other end, poor girl, I hope she enjoys that money they pay her for this)
(this is a real benefit to the consumers, are they providing a kitchen top reader, no, you still have to tramp out through the snow drifts to check your own usage, but the meter reader can now do it from the road)

Well, I started to feel this personal connection forming, and that is probably what she is paid to do, but I explained to her that it was not just her company, but someone could hack into their database and gain access to that info, and that caused a bit more squirming.

Then I told her for example that I pay $5 a month to my phone company for an unlisted number. Now why, if they don't have to print it in a book, or give it out over the phone, do I have to pay money? they should be saving money.  But you see, follow the money.  The phone company makes money on your phone number., Yes, you can register with a do not call list for telemarketers, but the phone company makes a heck of a lot of money off phone books, selling advertising in the yellow pages.  And if no one put their number in there, there would be no phone book to sell advertising.

So what is CMP doing that it wants $12 not to have access to your digitalized electrical information?


By the way, I got transferred to an even nicer lady about my poor telephone connection not being caused by the neighbors digital meter because it is an old fashioned hard-wired landline, no duh, the lines this way are so bad and of course those wiretaps  create havoc with the sound quality.

*here I lost a long part of my post about the mail service, how all my packages from UPs were arriving tampered with, how I believed it was the driver, but then regular mail started arriving tampered with as well.

and made a point about how the USPS is trying to do away with delivering letters, how much easier it is to snoop through emails, and presto, whole post gone.  But, I had copied and saved to the above point, just don't feel like reinventing the rest I lost.

damn, am I going to let "them" win?

Nope, because the whole prompting of this post was the coincidence in an AP story tonight...out of Barcelona, Spain, a tech show, that was promoting M2M (machine to machine technology) and how great it would be for consumers if their refridge could tell their phone the door was left open, or is you could turn your coffepot on with a text...
damn, wasn 't I jsut pointing out to the CMP spokewoman that those digital meters could tell what time I arose in the morning by the time my coffeepot came on, and she was denying the ability to do so???

keep profiling me baby, I am harmless, but it's none of your damn business, especially if you're going to make money off my personal information.

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