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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 11/22/18

Our Web of Inconvenient Truths

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More changes to our society

Losing the right to privacy

Because its "smart" meters collect data on ratepayers' electricity usage every 15 minutes and store it for up to three years, a group of Naperville, Illinois residents challenged their public utility. Naperville electricity customers are not allowed to opt out of the smart meter. The data collected reveals residents' sleeping routines, eating routines, specific electronics used, when people are home, when the house is empty, and info from electric vehicles that can identify travel routines and history. The residents claim that such data collection violates their Fourth Amendment rights, since the data can be de-aggregated to offer an invasive view into their personal lives.

On August 16, 2018, the 7th Circuit Federal Appeals Court ruled against the ratepayers (and their privacy rights), concluding that the government searches related to data collection by smart meters are reasonable (because they save energy) and thus permissible.

The residents further claim that the judge in this case does not understand that the meters have actually saved no energy.

Google and Facebook also collect users' personal data--including how much money you make, where you live, if you visit dating sites, if you're considering a new car or a divorce. They sell this data (one business theorist calls it "surveillance capitalism") to online marketers who produce targeted, mobile advertising. No federal agency regulates this data mining. No federal law protects citizens' privacy. Read Nicholas Confessore's piece, "The Unlikely Activists Who Took On Silicon Valley--and Won," NY Times,

* One meter victory A Colorado man provided his city with an image of his handicap parking placard, and requested that the utility not install a digital, RF-emitting water meter on his home because of an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Title II Regulation. The city accepted his request, but said they'd charge him an opt-out fee. The man then noted Section 35.130, General prohibitions against discrimination:

(f) A public entity may not place a surcharge on a particular individual with a disability or any group of individuals with disabilities to cover the costs of measures, such as the provision of auxiliary aids or program accessibility, that are required to provide that individual or group with the nondiscriminatory treatment required by the Act or this part.

A mechanical meter will be maintained at this man's property, and he will not be charged an opt-out fee. For more info:

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Katie Singer works on public policy with the Electromagnetic Radiation Policy Institute. A medical journalist, her books include The Garden of Fertility; Honoring Our Cycles, and An Electronic Silent Spring: Facing the Dangers and Creating Safe Limits. 

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