Smart meters alleged to pose security risk

BC Hydro's smart meters can be hacked for private information, a Vancouver homeowner believes, so he says he'll refuse to have one installed.
The CBC's Andree Lau reports on a man who does not want a BC Hydro smart meter at his home because he is worried it would invade his privacy 2:06

A Vancouver man says he doesn’t want a BC Hydro smart meter installed at his home because it jeopardizes his family’s privacy and security.

Ergonomics consultant Lance Rucker says that while smart meters can help homeowners track how they’re using electricity, the devices can also tip other people as to whether or not anyone is home.

"Power usage within a domicile is certainly one way in which people can track whether other people are at home, whether the house is vulnerable or not," Rucker told VCBC News Friday. "Many of us are concerned about the potential for home invasions or of break-ins."

BC Hydro says smart meters can't record which appliances are being used, don't hold personal information like names or addresses and are secure.

"The smart metering program has multiple layers of security in place starting with encryption similar to online banking systems," said BC Hydro spokeswoman Cindy Verschoor.

Rucker believes even protected information can be hacked.

"The question isn't whether it can be or not. It's a question of how easily it can be," he said.

B.C. privacy commissioner has launched an investigation into smart meter privacy concerns,

Billion-dollar program

BC Hydro has undertaken the billion-dollar provincewide installation program to save money and increase efficiency, the utility says. The meters wirelessly send information on power consumption to BC Hydro’s operations centres and automatically inform the utility about power outages.

Opponents to the technology say the wireless transmission of data can be harmful to residents’ health. But secure privacy are Rucker’s primary concern and he’s adamant that he won’t have a smart meter installed.

About 3,000 people have also told BC Hydro they want to stick to the old meters. But the company says that's less than one-half of one per cent of all of its customers.

Verschoor said BC Hydro will be talking with those who object to the new meters, but added that there’s no such thing as opting out.

"What we find is that most customers, when they do have the facts, we can address their concerns," she said.

Verschoor said one solution for concerned customers is to move the meter box to another location on their property.

But a smart meter will be installed whether they like it or not.

About 5,000 of the metres are installed every weekday.

"[The meters] are a necessary upgrade to the electricity grid to ensure that we can deliver power to the people of the province when they need it.

With files from the CBC's Andree Lau