On 31 January, EDRi-member Electronic Frontier Finland (Effi) presented the Finnish Big Brother Awards 2015. The Awards are based on a concept created by Privacy International in the UK. The tradition started in 1998 in London, and the awards are given in about a dozen countries annually. The goal is to draw attention to violations of privacy.
The recipients of the Awards of 2015 were chosen by the Board of Effi. This year’s awards and the Winston Smith painting were designed by Anu Raatikainen.
The award in the Corporate category went to Microsoft for its efficient cooperation with the US National Security Agency (NSA) and other authorities to monitor the emails and Skype calls of innocent people. The other nominees were Lehtipiste, a company supplying magazines and newspapers to retail sales points, whose attempts to censor Charlie Hebdo from reaching Finns were finally thwarted, and Sports Tracking Technologies Ltd, that has excelled in developing privacy breaching technologies.
The award in the public organisation category was given to the National Police Board for collecting information related to innocent people in their suspects file, without regard to legal or other limitations. The data acquisition working group of the Ministry of Defence came in a close second for demanding the right to comprehensive online surveillance for the defence forces and the Finnish Security Intelligence Service. A good (i.e. bad) effort was also seen from the Criminal Sanctions Agency for supporting their guards in their hobby of spying on prisoners.
There was no question that the award for individuals had to be given to National Police Commissioner Mikko Paatero for his persistent work to turn Finland into a police state. Paatero has adopted an unusually clear stance: The police are good, everybody else is more or less bad, so the police simply must have access to all information related to every citizen, and on the other hand, the police should not be unduly bothered with suspicions of abusing their powers or the like. This time, Effi was forced to leave Ilkka Salmi, Director of the Intelligence Analysis Centre of the European Union, without an award, despite his ingenious claim that the whole Big Brother concept itself is misguided, as well as the Minister of Defence, Carl Haglund, whose efforts to obtain online surveillance rights for the defence forces were seen as rather half-hearted.
“Despite the slightly disappointing performances of the awardees, it can be said that Finland is well on its way to becoming a Big Brother society. Who knows, maybe the year will come that Effi, too, will have to admit to simply loving the Big Brother,”
said Tapani Tarvainen, vice president of Effi.
The positive Winston Smith award was given to the Member of Parliament (MP) Oras Tynkkynen for his long-standing and consistent work for the rights of Internet users.
“I am honoured and surprised by the award. I have attempted to defend the right to privacy and other essential rights of the information society in my work. What I have done is however rather modest compared to the work of the late Ville Oksanen, or Jyrki Kasvi,” commented Tynkkynenon. “The concern for security has led to the demand for restrictions to the basic rights of citizens. One should keep a cool head now: The foundations of the free society must not be undermined hastily. Decision-makers must reject proposals that suggest increasing mass surveillance, and instead take actions to develop Finland towards becoming a safe harbour for digital rights.”
The chairman of Effi, Timo Karjalainen, reminds that in the coming parliamentary election in April 2015, Finns have once again the possibility to elect decision-makers who would steer Finland away from becoming a Big Brother society. Effi urges all citizens to question their parliamentary candidates on topics related to mass surveillance.
Finnish Big Brother Awards to National Police Commissioner Mikko Paatero, the National Police Board, and Microsoft (01.02.2015)
(Contribution by EDRi-member Effi, Finland)