Opt-in, now that's clever!
In February 2011, the Senate passed a revised, more 'privacy-friendly' bill to introduce smart energy meters. But does this really improve citizens' privacy? Dr Jaap-Henk Hoepman of Radboud University Nijmegen questions this and argues for opt-in instead of opt-out:
"In the law, the following things have changed. The smart meter is no longer mandatory, and refusal of a smart meter is no longer an economic offence. Meter readings may no longer be read continuously. This is only allowed if necessary for billing purposes, when moving house, and where necessary for technical management. If you move to a house where a smart meter has already been installed, you can request that the meter be switched off "administratively". The grid operator is obliged to honour this request. An administratively switched-off meter basically behaves like a traditional, dumb, meter. That sounds hopeful.
However, to what extent "administratively off" is really "off" in practice still depends on further requirements that will be imposed on the smart meters. Of course, there is a big difference between a meter that really does not transmit any data and one that does transmit data every so often but is then ignored by the grid operator. Administrative out could also mean that the grid operator promises not to ask the meter for data. But what if someone else does? Or if the grid operators are still forced by investigating agencies to query a meter? Will the meter then just answer? A "dumb" meter would never do such a thing....
Bigger objection in my view is the opt-out character of the law. A consumer may request to turn off the smart meter. It would have been better to have a opt-in rule of it. When a new smart meter is delivered, and whenever they move house, the smart meter will then be turned off by default. Consumers can then request that a smart meter be administratively to put.
With government-implemented systems (such as smart meters, road pricing, or electronic patient records), citizens cannot choose not to use the system. The government therefore has a great responsibility to protect citizens from abuse. The default should therefore be good privacy protection. And opt-in the norm. Opt-in, that's just clever!"
Source: weblog Jaap-Henk Hoepman, Opt-in, now that's smart, http://blog.xot.nl/2011/04/11/opt-in-das-pas-slim/, 11 April 2011.