Back at the beginning of December, I wrote a piece and spoke on the radio regarding Ed Miliband's announcement that the government would soon be rolling-out Smart Meters across the UK – and the danger that this posed to the sovereignty of our energy supply and the uncertainties surrounding the information that utility companies would now have immediate access to.
Today the Times has reported that:
The £8.1 billion rollout of smart meters in Britain could be knocked off course unless the Government and Ofgem, the energy regulator, act urgently to convince the public that the information provided by the meters will be held securely.
Fears that data on energy consumption could be misused by criminals, police or insurance companies have curtailed the compulsory introduction of the meters in the Netherlands, according to a report by Datamonitor, the market analyst.
Dutch consumer and privacy organisations were concerned that information relayed as frequently as every 15 minutes could allow employees of utility companies to see when properties were empty or when householders had bought expensive new gadgets.
These were points that I made in both my blog and on the radio – namely, that what happens after the readings are transmitted had not been given the sort of rigorous checking and vetting that the meters themselves had been subjected to.
The doomsday scenario is that once such intricate details of a person's energy habits are made available, the government could start proscribing ever-more individual taxation or even cut-off someone's energy supply on the basis of how much they were using.
The u-turn by the Dutch government represents a tremendous victory for privacy campaigners in the Netherlands and demonstrates that if enough noise is made about a civil liberties issue, eventually politicians will fold rather than face an electoral backlash.
By Dylan Sharpe