Data Management

Electronic databases: What's new with privacy concerns

A University of Colorado professor suggests that privacy laws governing electronic databases are insufficient, creating conditions where sensitive information is discoverable.

There are thousands of databases floating around the Internet. Most contain Personally Identifiable Information (PII) about each of us. Driver's license numbers, credit/debit card account numbers, and social security numbers to name a few. Everyone knows that. What may not be known is that our PII is not as private as we would like to think.

Balancing act

Databases are expensive to build and maintain, so managers try to discover different ways to monetize their holdings. Finding additional uses can be problematic, especially if the database contains PII, thus regulated by privacy laws. To address that, database administrators use a work-around called anonymization:

"The removal of person-related information that could be used for backtracking from, say, patient data to the actual patient."

The trick is figuring out what to remove. There are regulatory guidelines, but no clear definition of what PII is. So, it's left to the discretion of the database owner.

Not anonymous

Professor Paul Ohm in his paper Broken Promises of Privacy: Responding to the Surprising Failure of Anonymization points out that anonymization is not working. He uses the following example to show why it's not. Tables 5 and 6 (courtesy of Professor Ohm) are both anonymized databases. Separately, very little information can be gleaned.

All that changes when the two databases are joined in following table (courtesy of Professor Ohm). Potentially sensitive PII is now associated with individuals.

Real-life examples

In Massachusetts, a state agency Group Insurance Commission (GIC) decided to release anonymized data about state employee hospital visits. The professor explains:

"By removing fields containing name, address, social security number, and other "explicit identifiers," GIC assumed it protected patient privacy, despite the fact that "nearly one hundred attributes per" patient and hospital visit were still included, including the critical trio, ZIP code, birth date, and sex.

At the time GIC released the data, William Weld, then Governor of Massachusetts, assured the public that GIC had protected patient privacy by deleting identifiers."

Professor Ohm further explains that Dr. Latanya Sweeney, well-known for her demographic studies based on ZIP code, date of birth, and gender, decided to use the GIC database to test her theories:

"She knew that Governor Weld resided in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a city of 54,000 residents and seven ZIP codes. For twenty dollars, she purchased the complete voter rolls from the city of Cambridge, a database containing, among other things, the name, address, ZIP code, birth date, and sex of every voter. By combining this data with the GIC records, Sweeney found Governor Weld with ease.

Only six people in Cambridge shared his birth date, only three of them men, and of them, only he lived in his ZIP code. In a theatrical flourish, Dr. Sweeney sent the Governor's health records (which included diagnoses and prescriptions) to his office."

Another example involves Dr. Arvind Narayanan and advisor Dr. Vitaly Shmatikov. They determined one-third of Twitter users also have a Flickr account. That was all they needed. Cross-referencing anonymized Twitter social graphs with Flickr connection information allowed the researchers to identify Twitter accounts.

Professor Ohm's claim

The point, Professor Ohm wants to make is all information should be considered PII. No one knows for sure what other database could be used for re-identification:

"Data can either be useful or perfectly anonymous but never both."

In the report, Professor Ohm writes about what he calls the "Database of Ruin". He mentions that everyone has at least one fact about them stored on a database that is potentially injurious. For now, those tidbits remain hidden because a majority of databases are not sharing information. As databases interact, both re-identification and misuse of PII are more likely to occur.

Final thoughts

Currently, the U.S. government is spending billions of dollars trying to get electronic health records melded into a national database. After my phone conversation with Professor Ohm, I'm wondering if that could be his "Database of Ruin".

About

Information is my field...Writing is my passion...Coupling the two is my mission.

74 comments
FatNGristle
FatNGristle

Michael!!! why you're inferring that there might be some inherent danger to the gov't controlling too much of our information. That could lend creedence to the TEA partiers and anti-socialized medicine whackos that insist that any agency treading so blatantly on freedom and throwing safety to the wind can't be trusted (WTO, Patriot Act, Obamacare ...). I know you wouldn't want to infer that, so you'd better censor this article quickly.

seanferd
seanferd

"Databases are expensive to build and maintain, so managers try to discover different ways to monetize their holdings." Well, if they don't provide the ROI for their original, primary intended purpose, I suggest a different business model might be in order, rather than gaming the stored data.

Jaqui
Jaqui

and about 30 minutes ago I was telling a Justice Department employee they are in violation of privacy protection act because of weak security in windows. [ that old wga/mga giving MS "personally identifiable information" issue ] when you add weak security in site scripts allowing exploitation of databases with extremely confidential information in them, it makes me wonder how anyone can justify using MS products, or even a "generic" site script like Joomla or Drupal.

manwe
manwe

There is another troubling issue. Smart-grid laws provide for 'data mining' with no limit on the data types that can be mined. Your personal information is put at risk by smart-grid, but you need to know what smart-grid is first. A major component of the smart-grid will be a Home Area Network (HAN) that uses the wires in the home as the wired portion of the HAN. The programmable communicating thermostat with wireless capability is one method of connecting the HAN to the smart-grid and the utility. HAN connectivity is based on the Intellon chip that modulates the 60Hz of the AC power in your home (http://www.intellon.com/company/press/pressrelease.php?ReleaseID=236). New HAN-ready appliances will be available soon (http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/general-electrics-smart-appliances-smarter-with-ge-home-energy-manager/), and may become mandatory in some states (http://www.freescale.com/webapp/sps/site/overview.jsp?code=784_LPBBGREENBEE). Your use of TVs, computers, dishwashers, washing machines, dryers, etc., can be monitored and controlled. The utility can turn off any of these devices whenever there is a 'power emergency'. What is a power emergency? That's when the wind speed falls from 15 mph to 12 mph in a wind farm that is connected directly to the grid. You will pay higher power bills through time-of-use metering, unless you plan to consume most of your power around 2am. A new computer power supply being developed has the Intellon chip built-in (http://www.intellon.com/company/press/pressrelease.php?ReleaseID=72). Naturally, it would be very convenient to be able to download and view movies through your computer just by plugging the computer into the wall. Your computer might talk to your thermostat and report how much you are currently paying for electricity. Your computer could control many devices in your home, relay music and TV to every room. That's the up-side. On the down-side, you could become vulnerable to hackers just by plugging your computer into the wall. Your personal information might be read without even knowing it happened. When disconnected from an ISP, computers today are isolated and safe. With the new power supplies, that may not be true any longer.

Lazarus439
Lazarus439

This has been the stock and trade of all intelligence agencies, civilian and military, for as long as someone has had secrets that someone else wanted to know. Aside from good, old fashioned spying, "connecting the dots" is nothing new. However, like many other things, throwing computers and vast amounts of data into the mix produce startling, though not necessarily surprising results.

santeewelding
santeewelding

"Electronic" databases -- there is another kind?

michael.kamerick
michael.kamerick

The data shown here do meet the most basic HIPAA standards. Zip code and birth date are considered protected information. The rules for zip codes are actually slightly complex, so for the federal law that covers patient data, this issue is completely covered. It may well be that the entities that released the data in these examples need some training, but that is a somewhat different issue. The professor does make a very valid point about using disconnected data sources to resolve identity, as in the use of Twitter and Flickr accounts. To reiterate, under HIPAA neither of the examples shown above, released by the MA GIC, are sufficiently de-identified. No one I know who handles patient data and makes de-identified version available for research would ever release these data sets. The term anonymized actually has a specific technical meaning, and it is being used incorrectly here, but that is a secondary point.

Ocie3
Ocie3

"anonymized data" (without the quotation marks). Sampling the returned website pages could keep you awake all night. ....:-(

santeewelding
santeewelding

We need to hustle you off the stage, lest you reveal and embarrass too much.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Would be health records. Researchers use them all the time to get trends and generic information. The only place they can really get that is anonymized health records from hospitals and such.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Is that similar to the HomePlug networking devices that use the power lines in a house? Those devices can't get past a transformer, I was wondering if that was the same for what you are referring to.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I wonder about the results that you may not be looking for, yet unveils itself when databases are intermingled. Possibly removing the implied anonymity.

Ocie3
Ocie3

is the library -- a storehouse of books. There are others, such as the compiled collection of birth, marriage and death certificates which are acquired, organized and maintained by government agencies. We have become so accustomed to using computers -- now via the Internet that connects so many of them -- to search for and retrieve data that it is easy to forget the multitude of "paper databases" that we used before computers became so common, and which we still use today, whether in a "computerized" form.

Jaqui
Jaqui

the good old Rolodex phone book thing is a database, of sorts. any compilation of information where you can access a subset of the contents easily, and using a key [ alphabetical order for example ] to narrow the "result set" when looking for an entry.

SgtPappy
SgtPappy

Think of a room filled with medical records. All those records are kept alphabetically on shelves. Some of the records have blue covers some have brown covers, etc. They all contain personal information. That is a paper database.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I wondered about that as well. After checking several dictionaries, I decided to remove any doubt.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I would very much appreciate learning your definition of anonymized. I was trying to be somewhat general with mine. As for the example, it is a general one that the professor used in his report. I think it was simplified to show the general concept.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

As to if we should be concerned about a private entity having so much information about each of us? Maybe to a point where Google could make the database of ruin themselves?

Jaqui
Jaqui

they agreed that the vulnerability issue is a significant concern, but since they weren't part of the I.T. department I doubt anything will change. :D me? been house hunting. right now I'm sitting in a coffee shop using the free wireless, or I wouldn't be online.

manwe
manwe

You hit on a remedy. A UPS can block the HomePlug signals. However, anyone using their computer to control new services throughout their home will be vulnerable. If you mean that a power transformer outside the home will block the signals, no. The utilities and other service providers have other means of relaying data outside the home. The reason you can be sure the utilities and others could talk to your home network is the claimed need for 'demand response'. The utility wants be able to send signals to your appliances and turn them off. The communication is necessarily bidirectional to monitor and control electrical devices in your home. Remember the 'data mining' provision in the law. That's a wide open door. For example, with smart water meters, the utilities can tell when you flush your toilet, how many times, whether it is 'low flow', whether you wash your hands, how long your showers are, etc. In Australia, they recently threatened to fine people for taking long showers. They have smart technology already. With hungry government budgets, our authorities will be looking at all new sources of revenue. High power prices are caused by shortages imposed by regulators, not high fuel prices. Power prices are driven by expensive peak power generators, and 'progressive' rates designed to force us to shift consumption, and accept new regulations. Our regulators have decided not to build enough efficient power plants. We have a shortage of generation capacity because our population has increased. Per capita power consumption has remained flat since 1975. Although we use more electrical devices, generally they are more efficient. That's great, but now we need more power plants built. The US DOE estimates we need 25 to 30% more generation capacity by 2030. Building more conventional power plants would cut power costs, and boost our economy tremendously. And then we won't need smart-grid extending into our homes.

santeewelding
santeewelding

That what you describe are, records, administered to by, clerks. "Database", as discussed here, is another, whole different animal.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

As much. I sense it is all about spin and who does it best.

Ocie3
Ocie3

is one that has on record, for each and every one of us, at least one fact that we would rather not be on record. Whether it is a fact so horrible that disclosing it would have severely adverse consequences for us is beside the point. Certainly, I can think of some facts about myself which I would rather not be recorded in anyone's database, but I don't believe that any of them [i]are[/i] recorded (so far). More likely, what would ruin our lives would be combination(s) of facts which are likely to be misinterpreted or even misrepresent the truth. Then there are the idiots who attempt to reduce the data to a single datum which they believe will always tell them what they really want to know. Such as the use of the "credit score" as an "indicator" of how safe it is to loan money to the person to whom the score pertains. As Mark Twain wrote, "There are lies, damned lies, and statistics." If anyone could possibly create The Database of Ruin, it would be Google. Fortunately, at the present it seems that they have other priorities. It is worth remembering that most of us would probably rather have some data recorded about us than not have it recorded, or to have the record destroyed. When my grandfather died, my father and each of his seven younger siblings had to prove to the court that they were grandfather's heirs. But the courthouse in which my father's birth certificate, and the respective birth certificates for two of his sisters, were stored had burned down and all records in it were destroyed. So, they had to collect evidence from other sources, such as the family Bible and school enrollment records, etc. as to when and where they were born and as to whom their parents were.

Jaqui
Jaqui

my sarcastic sense of humour is coming back. ]:) my complete lack of respect for social niceties is growing stronger, to the point of making sewer comments to a telephone conversation I could only hear half of... and Dale was talking to his mom.

seanferd
seanferd

I hope things are looking up.

Osiyo53
Osiyo53

A starting place for some reading: http://en.wikipedia.org /wiki/Power_line_communication Keep in mind that whoever wrote/edited that Wiki entry seems to have little real world experience and knowledge of the subject, and is both wrong and out of date on a few points. But its worth a read if someone is interested in the subject. "I was curious to learn if this technology is security conscious or not? " Ummm... somewhat and sometimes. Depends largely upon the specific implementation and the companies involved. Some would want to, and do, pass critical information including system commands over PLC (Power Line Communications). i.e. Commands to shut down, start up, activate a switch to another power source, and so forth. And now, there is an increased demand to use such systems to also serve as an alternative to DSL over phone lines, broadband over video cable, etc for general Internet access. This presents a possible security problem, just as is present in any other data network. While PLC type data networks might be a new idea to some reading these posts, its certainly not actually NEW. And there are folks out there who've been working with such systems for many years. In short, anyone who might want to engage in some mischief, criminal activity, or whatever would not have a problem finding huge amounts of info available about them. To include such things as packet encoding/decoding, protocol specifics and details, and even free open source utilities for reading/modifying data in packets on such networks. AND ... specifics about the protocols and commands for manipulating microprocessor based controls for equipment on such networks. i.e. How you might do something like command a critical system valve open or shut, regardless of what other control programs are telling it. Same thing with switches controlling the path of many megawatts (or giga-watts) of power supplying not only a building, but whole geographic areas. For instance, there are little embedded microprocessor controls in commercial/industrial motorized valves, electric motor controllers, switches, circuit breakers, and so forth which are connected to some data network or other. And if one knows how ... and the info is actually readily available if you know where to look ... you could do something like command the device to ignore all other instructions and do "this". For instance, as I sit here at my desk, in my den at home, I could, if I wished log into a certain remote connection over the internet. I have the legitimate access rights. Then access a device which is essentially a gateway, as well as being a web site server. Going through it I could access a control network that's actually a Modbus RTU, RS485 data network. On that data network are some microprocessor based controllers, with the appropriate inputs and outputs plus a master control program which allow them to control the operation of some rather high power boilers. If it was something I actually wanted to do, which I don't, I could easily issue the appropriate Modbus RTU commands which would turn off the REAL data input of a certain, critical input (what we call input override) that feeds very important data to the control program and then substitute a false value which would result in ... a rather loud BOOOMMMM. To make it more interesting, those boilers are located in a rather important (locally) law enforcement center. A facility housing a disaster response team, SWAT group, modern state of the art forensic labs, and a 911 communications center. Depending on exactly where you're at Michael, you might even hear the boom and/or the sounds of the responding emergency vehicles. The county borders Hennipen county and is just a rock's throw from touching Ramsey county. Using a similar connection and various gateways, I could pretty much shut down the St Paul City government building and it's annex. Of course, these are things I am highly unlikely to ever do. And the examples I give are not PLC connections and data networks. But that's just a different type of network and carrier media. A bit further away from you (think Elk River) I could shut down the power over most of that city via a gateway connection to a PLC based network. As I stated above, one really need not worry about me doing such things. I could do those things, quite easily. Piece of cake, no sweat. But wouldn't. One of the tasks of my job is to try to ensure no one ELSE, unauthorized, can do such things. But I gotta tell you that there are a lot of places and installations that have little to no security measures in place that are meaningful. More such places are popping up all the time as this or that organization or business asks people like myself to make their control systems "web accessible".

santeewelding
santeewelding

Pons Asinorum? You have crossed, Michael, only to stand there blinking.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Your comment is cryptic as all get out. If I didn't know better, I would question your sentence structure.

santeewelding
santeewelding

That somebody needs to tumble to operation of mind.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I wondering how the electric trains were able to communicate and sent data back to the command site. Now I know. This BPL technology or what ever it is called is way more prevalent than I had thought. I suspect I need to dive head long into this. I was curious to learn if this technology is security conscious or not?

Osiyo53
Osiyo53

BPL, Broadband over Power Lines, is just one of numerous methods of using power lines as a data network. The only thing new about it is the "broadband" part as the other methods employ significantly slower data transmission methods. For instance, they're not adequate for such tasks as streaming videos in real time. The existing technologies in current usage are not truly wide spread. While the "nodes" on such networks over power lines number in the millions, that's just a small fraction of the number of things attached to all the grids worldwide. For instance, in Europe (I forget where) a power company has a few million customer homes with nodes installed that can communicate with a central office via Lontalk over Powerlines. The actual application is simple, the node simple monitors power usage in live time and reports the data back to the home office. Some trains use a similar system for intelligent, computer based control systems in a train to talk to each other, share pertinent information, and so forth via the electrical power supply lines of the train. Thus, no additional "communications" cables, etc. The engine car of course has power lines, and the generators. And each car that makes up the whole train is attached, in daisy chain fashion, one to another not only by the mechanical linkage but also via a flexible electric power cable. To power whatever within the car needs power. Since the power connection already exists, and they're quite sturdy and robust, only made since to develop a method to send actual data over them versus adding some sort of additional cabling. For instance, smart microprocessor boards that are part of the braking systems in each car, for each axle, actually control the brakes. Braking on modern systems is NOT just a matter of applying a stronger and stronger electrical current or pneumatic/hydraulic signal to all brakes simultaneously. Amount of braking that is desired is passed from the main control computer, in words and digits, along the "network". The nodes which know they're part of the braking system listen up, read the message, then start doing their thing. They also talk directly to each other, coordinating their efforts. i.e. 1st left brake tells 2nd and 3rd left brakes that he's overheating and needs help such as more braking effort on their parts. The hear and start helping more. In the meantime the main control computer is monitoring it all and reports to the operating engineer that the one brake is having issues, temperature rise at it's location is above calculated acceptable levels, but there is no serious issue because the other brakes are being successful in their efforts, that car is as a whole, braking satisfactorily. There are lots of little, smart, microprocessor based devices installed in a lot of things many people never imagine, talking to each other and to human operators over data networks of a type many people aren't even aware of. Lontalk was just one example, there are numerous others. Several with the ability to pass data over power lines. Of course there are issues with such methods. The most reliable pass information relatively slowly. i.e. Modem speeds, maybe double that. Typically one needs to install a repeater every so many miles if its a long transmission path. Etc. So as a result, the employment of such over power lines has been slow to be widely deployed by the big power companies. And actual usage limited. i.e. Simply reporting power consumption at a location (a house for instance), a major transformer reporting critical info such as loading, heat rise, etc. But there has long been plans to extend all this. To incorporate smart chips into the power lines of stoves, refrigerators, etc. So that once plugged into the house power system, a path of communications is established back to the power company. So such everyday devices can report their usage. AND ... so that the power company can do things like command them off. For instance to conserve and reduce power usage during a peak demand period when a brown out is threatening.

Ocie3
Ocie3

Your message in reply to the one that I wrote in reply to [b]White House and privacy & the HAN is here[/b] maxed the message depth limit, so I'm posting this one in reply to the original start of the thread. With regard to the [i]Washington Times[/i] story that I retrieve with: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/sep/16/obama-wh-collects-web-users-data/?page=2 The headline says: "EXCLUSIVE: W.H. collects Web users' data without notice" but, again, the statements that I've quoted before say that so far, there is only a proposal, and it is not a current activity. To trumpet that the White House [i]"collects web users data"[/i] implies that they are (or will be) collecting data that is private when, in fact, just about [b]anything[/b] that someone posts on a website page that is accessible by the general public is no longer private (if it ever was). Since it is public, no one has to ask for permission to copy it or excerpts from it, and no one has to give anyone notice that it is being collected. (That does not apply to copyrighted works, but you and I don't need permission from, and don't have to give notice to, the [i]Washington Times[/i] because of the "fair use doctrine".) Since so many web pages are accessible to the public, there are plenty of web crawlers running, mostly developed and used by firms that collect PII and associated data to add to their database(s). It seems likely that our messages posted on TR for public view are examined by one or more web crawlers for any personal data that they may disclose. They might also simply record the fact that you and I have posted one or more messages on TR, especially if they can associate that fact with PII that they might already have on record. But perhaps I digress. The sentence you quoted: [i]"The White House is collecting and storing comments and videos placed on its social-networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube without notifying or asking the consent of the site users...."[/i] is [b]not[/b] the first sentence and it doesn't occur anywhere else in the story. Considering what is now the first sentence, it appears that the [i]Washington Times[/i] has deleted your quotation from their current website version of the article. As they should have done, because that sentence is sheer ideological propaganda. As the story reflects, the [i]Washington Times[/i] has a well-known bias of favoring and supporting Republicans, and opposing just about anything and everything that any Democrat does or wants to do. (Is it still owned by the Unification Church?) In some of your other posts, haven't you criticized people and organizations that you don't like by saying that they lack "objectivity"??

manwe
manwe

The first sentence reads: "The White House is collecting and storing comments and videos placed on its social-networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube without notifying or asking the consent of the site users...." Later, in the piece: "Ken Boehm, a lawyer and chairman of the center, also disputed that the presidential records law applies, because the comments are pasted onto a third-party Web page and not official correspondence with the president." If collecting these records is still a proposal, and you have to trust that statement, maybe it can be stopped. You would also have to trust that the program would not be expanded beyond the websites listed. Sorry, I'm not that trusting. Lacking trust in government is an old American tradition.

manwe
manwe

Laws require environmental impact reports for many public projects. Environmentalists can challenge EIRs almost endlessly to delay anything they don't like. Worse, the environmentalists have entered government, and call themselves mainstream. They write new regulations and laws that severely impact our economy and freedom. We can hardly maintain what we have now let alone make progress. Any wonder why our economy has gone south? To illustrate part of the problem, the CA Energy Commission (CEC) has paid for studies on various factors related to energy. One is a review of the potential impacts of natural gas power plants and their potential future role. The report was prepared by an outside consulting firm (http://www.energy.ca.gov/2009publications/CEC-700-2009-009/CEC-700-2009-009.PDF). Sounds fine, but it turns out that the owner of the consulting firm is a former Director of Policy at the CEC (http://www.mrwassoc.com/our_people.php). So much for objectivity. It is no surprise that the report does not recommend building natural gas power plants in the future. Another report is a study of greenhouse gas reduction feasibility produced by TIAX LLC, a company that develops 'clean energy' products (http://www.energy.ca.gov/2009publications/CEC-600-2009-009/CEC-600-2009-009.PDF). Again, where is the objectivity? Another recent publication is by the Loreti Group on reducing GHG from cement production. This author has a long list of environmental efforts including the cement and petroleum industries (http://www.loretigroup.com/ChristopherLoretiResume.pdf). Is there any objectivity here either? Climate change research is used to justify the policy decisions of the CEC. A recent climate change publication says 'The future is now' (http://www.energy.ca.gov/2008publications/CEC-500-2008-071/CEC-500-2008-071.PDF). One author is Dan Cayan, a climate scientist from Scripps Oceanographic Institute. One would assume that Dr. Cayan is an objective researcher, lending credibility to the publication. It turns out that one of his programs is funded by the CEC (http://meteora.ucsd.edu/cap/), and he produces numerous non-peer reviewed publications paid for by the CEC's Public Interest Energy Research program. PIER is funded by public goods charges on our electric bills. If people stop believing in anthropogenic global warming, his gravy train stops. There seems to be little objectivity in the CEC. It appears their goal is to force their policies on us, no matter how much they negatively impact jobs, freedom and privacy, and our future happiness.

Ocie3
Ocie3

Granted, the Washington Times story is very poorly written, but how well do you read?? Quote: [i]".... The WH has hired a consultant to do web crawling and build a database of such posts across the internet."[/i] What the Washington Times story actually says is: "The proposal issued Aug. 21 calls for a contractor to 'crawl and archive' social-networking Web sites where the White House maintains an official presence on seven networks: Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo and Slideshare." It is a proposal, not an actual current activity, and archiving would be limited to seven websites, not the entire Internet. Archiving at least a part of each of those sites also might actually be required by The Presidential Records Act.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Where have I been. Who decides what temperature it's set at?

Lazarus439
Lazarus439

You blame "the regulators" for there not being enough power plants built to cover the demand, but where I live what stalls such things are the "environmentalists" who drive their electric cars to the public hearings to protest a new power plant. Their shortsightedness never ceases to amaze me.

manwe
manwe

It was just disclosed that the White House is collecting posts on third party websites that are critical of the President (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/sep/16/obama-wh-collects-web-users-data/?page=2). The WH has hired a consultant to do web crawling and build a database of such posts across the internet. I guess they are making a new WH enemies list. Smart Meters, the PCT, and the HAN PG&E has just replaced all of our electric meters with smart meters. They have been pushing the Programmable Communicating Thermostat by offering a $25 payment for letting them 'upgrade' your thermostat. The PCT adds a wireless communication piece to your home, and is a gateway for the HAN (http://www.tantalus.com/pdf/products/TUNet_ST-1480.pdf). The PCT is a critical piece of the HAN. People should know what it does before they let it into their homes. The State of California tried to make PCT installation mandatory via Title 24 building regulations a couple of years ago. There was great resistance to it at that time. However, they are going to try making it mandatory again soon.

Ocie3
Ocie3

can and do transmit their signal through a transformer, as far as I know. After all, we can "tap" a telephone line simply by putting an induction coil near enough to pick up the magnetic field generated by the current flowing through the line. The municipal electric utility company of the City of Ocala, FL, has digital meters installed for each and every apartment of the complex in which I live. I never see anyone "reading" them. Personally, I cannot make any sense of what little they display, which does not appear to be an accumulation of the amount of power that I have used.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

The battery acts in the same manner as a transformer I was curious to learn if they are using this already to read power meters? I will have to wait until we have snow on the ground. I suspect that they are still physically reading our meters.

Ocie3
Ocie3

a "true" UPS to serve as a barrier to a signal transmitted via the power line itself. That is, power for the computer must be drawn from the Uninteruptible Power Supply (UPS) storage at the same time that power from the wall outlet is drawn to recharge the storage media. (A "standby" power supply -- often marketed as a "UPS" -- doesn't work that way.) The first incentive for the "smart grid" was to automate the collection of data from the meter via the power line itself, instead of having a person walking around reading them and recording the tally. Everything else that you mentioned has been added to the planned systems since. IMHO, such ambitions have become out-of-control, especially the data collection that inherently invades the privacy of the household and which is not actually necessary for "managing the grid", whether also for "managing generation". Such a system is what happens when people driven by greed endeavor to grab whatever power they must have to satisfy that greed.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I did not realize that this is past experimentation in some countries. I know that Broadband over Powerline was talked about here in the US, but seems to have fallen by the wayside. As an amateur radio operator, I had some misgivings about how it possibly could create interference.

santeewelding
santeewelding

Sometimes you abrogate the right to yourself in order to get it done.