Big Brother Awards France 2009

By EDRi · April 8, 2009

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Deutsch: [Big Brother Awards Frankreich 2009 |]

The French Big Brother Awards ceremony, or ‘Orwell Party’, was held this
year on Saturday 4 April. The 2009 edition awarded 12 of the 35 nominees, in
6 categories, one of them being the positive ‘Voltaire Award’. Armand
Mattelart, a renowned professor of Information and Communication Studies,
chaired the 2009 jury composed by 10 other members, among them academics,
artists, and representatives from French NGOs, including EDRI-member IRIS.

Awarding almost one third of the nominees is a sign that the Jury task was
hard this year, with the increase of surveillance and social control in

The French ministry of Interior, Michèle Alliot-Marie, received the lifetime
menace award, for her ‘immoderate taste for police files’, which quantity
has increased by 70% in 3 years, as well as for her other ‘qualities’: her
‘novlang’ (video-surveillance is now called video-protection by French
officials), her ‘incitements to denouncement’, and her talent to construct
the ‘internal enemy’.

The French ministry of Budget, Eric Woerth, received the State award. The
Jury wanted to particularly alert against the centralised database RNCPS to
be created, massively interconnecting data from the social sector in view of
fraud fighting, using the social security number as identifier. This, of
course, reminds the SAFARI project scandal that led to the adoption of the
French Data Protection Act in 1978.

The award for companies was given to the French mutual insurance system, a
not-for-profit organization, for ‘its joint activism with private insurance
companies in order to access some medical data from the social security

Paris Mayor, Bertrand Delanoë, earned the local authorities award for ‘his
conversion to video-surveillance’, after he agreed to contribute to the
government efforts in this field, increasing by 4 times the number of
cameras in Paris, reaching 1200 of them in public areas.

The Novlang award has two ex aequo recipients. The first one is Humabio, an
EC funded research project on multimodal biometrics, most notably relying on
behavioural biometrics to ‘increase freedom of movement’. The second
recipient is the family benefits sector of the social security system, for
having trained its employee using a method, called IGGACE, which goes even
further than a simple lie detector, since it is supposed to detect ‘lying
intent’. The method was originally developed for the police sector.

Not only the jury gave an additional award as a ‘special mention’, but it
also awarded two ex aequo recipients. Frédéric Lefebvre, French MEP and
spokesperson of Nicolas Sarkozy’s party, certainly deserved his award for
his ‘incompetence and insistence to control the Internet’, including by
supporting the French ‘three strikes law’. The other recipients is the
‘anonymous zealot’: having seen the number of individual civil servants who
denounced irregular migrants, sometimes in breach of the professional
secret, decided to highlight this phenomenon through a generic category.

Finally, the Voltaire award or positive prize was given to three ex aequo
recipients, actually three coalitions that have been particularly active and
gain some success: the coalition against the EDVIGE police file, the
coalition of elementary and primary school directors against the central
database of children (Base élèves), and the coalition against the use of
biometrics in schools. In addition, another Voltaire prize was awarded, as a
‘special mention’, to Mireille and Monique, two volunteers who help
irregular migrants based in Calais with the hope to reach the UK. This
simple humanitarian help is a highly risky activity in France, a country
where such help is now criminalized.

2009 Big Brother Awards France (only in French, 05.04.2009)

(Contribution by Meryem Merzouki – EDRi-member IRIS France)