Big Brother Awards presented in Austria, Germany and Spain

By EDRi · November 3, 2004

Last week Big Brother Awards were presented in 3 different countries to a wide range of government officials, companies and institutions for violating privacy and promoting extensive control over citizens lives.

Seville in Spain hosted the 50st BBA event held worldwide on 30 October 2004, 6 years since Privacy International invented the ceremony in London. The Spanish jury awarded Zara, a fashion clothing store chain belonging to giant Inditex, for using RFID chips in some of their products. The Spanish jury also awarded a price to the shadow-government ordering the confiscation of servers of Indymedia in London. Shadow-government because “unfortunately, we are still to be told who that government is.”

In Austria, a remarkable peoples price was awarded to the electric company of the city of Linz, for trying to stifle critics. Radio technicians discovered the powerline-technology could produce radio-interference. The technicians were not invited to discuss and help solve the issue, but sued for ‘damage of credit’, with a very intimidating demand for compensation of financial damages. On top of that a lawyer of the Linz Strom GmbH intervened in his role as member of the supervisory board of an Austrian media company to prevent the criticism from being spread.

Another price winner in Austria was the Austrian company Hutchison for developing the tool ‘3Friendfinder’, that enables the localisation of other GSM-users. The lifetime achievement award was renamed the ‘Lifetime-Annoyance-Elisabeth-Gehrer-Prize’, rewarding the efforts of the Minister of Education, Science and Culture to create a 1984-worthy immense database about all schoolchildren/students and storing these data for a period of 60 years. The education register contains many sensitive data about ethnicity, religion and income of the parents and detailed reports about absence. During a lecture in Luzern, Switzerland on 16 October, Andreas Krisch from Austrian EDRI-member VIBE!AT gave a presentation about this legislation, introduced in 2003.

In the category politics, Austria wanted to reflect the European dimension of policy-making. The Award went to the responsible Ministers from Sweden, France, Ireland and England for their proposal for a Framework Decision regarding retention of telecommunications data.

In Germany the Minister of Justice, Mrs Brigitte Zypries, received the Big Brother Award for pushing for snoopers legislation that allows for the bugging and tapping of private homes with the help of directional microphones and laser equipment. She seemed to ignore an important verdict of the German Constitutional Court of 3 March 2004, that severely restricted the possibility of state interference in the private home, when she launched a legal proposal that initially even enabled snooping on the homes of doctors, journalists and religious officials. Similar to the Austrian price-winner, in Germany the company Armex GmbH from Gladbeck was given the award for developing a GSM-based tracking service, called ‘Track your Kid’. According to the German jury an important part of education is to teach children about the values of a free society. “Would such a society be able to understand and defend personal liberty rights if a large part of society is getting used to permanent surveillance from childhood onwards?”

Another German Big Brother Award was presented to the supermarket chain Lidl, for exhaustive and sometimes barbaric control of their employees. The German BBA site quotes a large amount of incidents of firing employees without much reason, searching personal bags, clothes and cars, interrogating employees and secretly listening in on conversations in the lunchroom with the help of baby-phones.
Lidl was also awarded the price for its operations abroad, not allowing employees in the Czech Republic to use the toilet during working time. Menstruating women were allowed to use the toilet in between, but to enjoy this privilege they were asked to wear a headband. On 10 December 2004 a black book on Lidl will be published, the international human rights day.

At the German BBA ceremony a guest from the Czech Republic was represent, Filip Pospisil, who will be in the team organising Big Brother Awards in the Czech Republic for the first time next year. This will bring the number of BBA organising countries to 18.

Spanish BBA Winners (30.10.2004)

Austrian BBA Winners (26.10.2004)

Lecture Andreas Krisch about the education register in Austria (16.10.2004)

German BBA Winners (29.10.2004)

‘Black book’ on Lidl (appears 10.12.2004)