Big Brother Awards presented in Paris

By EDRi · February 11, 2004

On 4 February 2004 the French Big Brother Awards were presented in a movie
theatre in Paris. In the category ‘Government’ a double award was given to
the Ministers of Justice and Internal Affairs, Dominique Perben and
Nicolas Sarkozy, for their joined efforts in changing the law on organised
crime. The new adaptation (Perben II) introduces a form of plea-bargaining
to the French legal system. The law also stretches the interception and
remote monitoring powers of law enforcement agencies, allowing them to
secretly place microphones and camera’s in cars and private homes.
According to the jury, the new powers are not limited to the investigation
of networks of organised crime, but can also be used on small delinquents
and groups like ‘young people in cities’, ‘immigrants’ and ‘travellers’.
The law thus seriously erodes civil liberties and fundamental human

In the private sector the negative award was presented to the French
Federation of Insurance Companies (FFSA), for their long-time lobby to
broaden the access to medical records, stop anonymising such data and
stimulate a close ‘partnership’ between patients and insurance companies.

Two catholic schools in the city of Angers were given a Big Brother Award
for their use of biometrics to control children. They installed
fingerprint readers in the school canteens in order to be able to charge
every parent for every meal, thus excluding children on financial grounds.

A 4th Big Brother Award was given to the technology of RFID-tags, mini
spy-chips that can be hidden in all kinds of consumer products. The
company ‘Societe Inside Contactless’, based in Aix en Provence, was named
for selling special long-range RFIDs to China, officially to counter fraud
in public transport, but ultimately ending up inside students cards.
Related to similar objectionable trade with China was the Lifetime Menace
Award presented to the French conglomerate Thales (previously Thomson
CSF). In 2002 they were already nominated for a contract with the Chinese
government to deliver smart cards for the next generation IDs in China.

Thales now earned the special grand menace award for specialising in
internet surveillance schemes, smart video systems, biometric devices, and
for its last ‘SHIELD’ concept – a homeland security ‘package’, unveiled at
the last MILIPOL trade show in Paris. Furthermore, Thales was very proud
on having been elected to implement the cyber police network of Brazilian
city Porto Alegre, where anti-liberal contestants met last year, in
January 2003.

According to the French privacy-watchers, of all European institutions,
the Council of Justice and Home Affairs was the most damaging to
privacy-rights. A European Orwell will be presented soon to the present
President of the Council, the Irish Minister for Justice, Equality and Law
Reform, Michael McDowell.

Overview of nominees and winners (in French)

Overview of all international big brother awards