Were Stimulus Funds Used To Spy On Americans?
The April 2012 issue of Consumer Reports has a section titled: “Stopping car crashes with smarter cars,” which focuses on how “talking cars can protect you.” The systems are several steps up from electronic toll collection or the use of drive-by weigh stations favored by truckers. These V2X systems allow cars in the same area to communicate with each other over a wireless network, exchange data about each vehicle’s speed, location, and direction of travel. Consumer Reports admits that “to some this might seem like a Big Brother approach to monitoring driver behavior,” but says: “such a system has the potential to help drivers avoid” crashes. Sounds “smart.” But, Justin Brookman, director of the Consumer Privacy Project at the Center for Democracy & Technology, points out: “The concern is that once you set up a mechanism to collect data for one admittedly beneficial use, there are no intrinsic limitations on that data being collected retained, transferred, and used for other purposes.”
We’ve recently seen the collection of data being done without consumer approval as in the case against Google and Apple. On January 23, the US Supreme Court ruled that use of a wireless GPS device attached by law enforcement to monitor a vehicle, without a court order as required for wire taps and other types of monitoring the citizenry is unlawful, a violation of the 4th Amendment. Yet, unauthorized data collection is one of the primary concerns facing consumers in states with mandated “smart” meters.
If you live in a state that is not requiring smart meters, you may not know what they are. Smart meters replace your standard analog electric meter with a digital one that can be read from a central office rather than a meter reader visiting your home—thus eliminating hundreds of jobs. President Obama says they are “devices that will have a direct benefit for consumers who want to save money on their electric bills.” They will “Allow you to actually monitor how much energy your family is using”—“even by the hour.” But these smart meters allow others to “monitor” your electricity use as well. Additionally, the next generation of smart meters will probably have controls that let the electric company turn off your electricity at peak times—or, perhaps, if you use too much. Only then, will they actually save any electricity.
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