My recent column on smart meters came to the attention of Richard Stallman, who worries about the privacy and surveillance issues I alluded to. In the course of our email discussion a question came up that I’d like to answer but can’t. When a smart meter is utility-owned, rather than DIY like mine, do any of the providers offer choice with respect to the granularity of the data feed that’s phoned home? In theory it would be possible to opt out of a realtime feed and only use the meter to automate the monthly accounting that’s currently still done by a visiting person. I doubt that any utility offers that but I’d like to be proved wrong, and either way it would be nice to know for sure.
Richard, by the way, would like to add the privacy/surveillance issues arising from smart meter deployment to his list of causes, and is looking for someone who wants to lead that charge. If you’re interested and qualified you are welcome to contact him. Here, as I have now learned firsthand, is the protocol. You’ll write to him at email@example.com. You’ll receive an autoreply that begins:
I am not on vacation, but I am at the end of a long time delay. I am located somewhere on Earth, but as far as responding to email is concerned, I appear to be well outside the solar system.
After your message arrives at gnu.org, I will collect it in my next batch of incoming mail, some time within the following 24 hours. I will spend much of the following day reading that batch of mail and will come across your message at some point. If I write a response immediately, it will go out in the next outgoing batch–typically around 24 hours after I collected your message, but occasionally sooner or later than that. Please expect a minimum delay of between 24 and 48 hours in receiving a response to your mail to me.
If a conversation ensues, it will happen on that cycle. This strikes most people as odd. As Jeremy Zawodny once noted, though, Richard Stallman is Getting Things Done. Old School.