Big Brother Award for new member Italian DPA

By EDRi · June 2, 2005

On 27 May 2005 the first Big Brother Award Ceremony in Italy, organised by the NGO Winston Smith Project, lead to an extremely unlikely winner. The Award for Lifetime Menace was given to Giuseppe Fortunato, appointed 2 months ago as new member of the Data Protection Authority. According to the jury, Fortunato is one of the very few Italians convicted with a final sentence (the case went all the way to the highest court) for grave offences against privacy. As legal council of the municipality of Naples Fortunato demanded the traffic data of the mobile phones of the Mayor and 5 members of the council. He organised a press conference about the results of his investigation and claimed the phones were used to make private calls. Fortunato obtained the traffic data from mobile operator SIP by claiming the request was authorised by the chair of a special municipal commission on transparency. In fact, in conspiracy with an employee of SIP, he anti-dated his letter a few months, to make it look as if the previous chair of the commission had approved. But even if that fraudulent act had not occurred, the Italian highest court notes separately, the commission didn’t have the authority to demand such sensitive data anyway. The jury assigned the prize in consideration of the lack of explanations and for the silence of Fortunato on the topic.

By popular vote, Telecom Italia was awarded the first ‘Complaint of the People’ Award. According to a report in the excellent Italian e-zine Punto Informatico the national telephone company just beat Silvio Berlusconi, Microsoft and the ex-minister of Culture Giuliano Urbani. A very sportive Telecom Italia person collected the negative prize presented during e-privacy 2005 conference in Florence.

Silvio Berlusconi didn’t escape a Big Brother Award though; the jury awarded him with the special ‘Boot in the mouth’ award for sending an SMS to every Italian mobile phone with a call to vote for the European elections. “Thus he violated the privacy of about 40 million Italians, even to people that weren’t allowed to vote. Following this unprecedented action, the police sent multiple messages during the days of the funeral of the Pope,” writes the jury.

The worst public service award was shared by the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Education. In order to obtain a new electronic ID-card every Italian is now fingerprinted. An unverifiable but trustworthy deep throat said that fingerprints data are centrally filed at the Ministry of Home Affairs. This fact violates the present law stating that biometric data should only be voluntarily included in the ID-card, and that templates only, and not full fingerprints, must be used. The Ministry of Culture on the other hand has also gone to great lengths to obtain a Big Brother Award, by requiring all kinds of irrelevant personal data from pupils when they take mandatory tests in the second and fourth year of elementary school. These data are processed by unknown external companies, without any specific authority to deal with these data.

Finally, a positive Emmanuel Goldstein award was presented to Stefano Rodotà, “for having been more than just chair of the Italian privacy authority, but the heart and soul of privacy in Italy too.”

Assegnati i Big Brother Awards Italia (30.05.2005)

Italian BBA website

Penal conviction new Italian DPA member in cassation verdict nr 9331 (08.03.2002)