Big Brother Awards presented in 4 countries

By EDRi · November 3, 2005

The sixth edition of Swiss Big Brother Awards ceremony was held in Zurich’s Rote Fabrik on 29 October 2005. The Swiss jury received 100 nominations in four categories: government, business, workplace and the special life-time achievement award. The financial services branch of Swiss Post, Postfinance, was awarded the business award for the illegal transfer of bank transaction data to the United States. The transfer became apparent after a Swiss man tried to transfer an amount in US dollars to a Cuban travel agency based in Switzerland. Both bank accounts were registered in Zurich. Although the man assumed the transfer was purely domestic it turned out that Postfinance uses its US partner Western Union for all transactions in US dollars. The man was notified that the US Department of the Treasury had confiscated his money because of the US embargo against Cuba. Postfinance advised him to send a protest to the US authorities in order to get his money back. So much for the Swiss bank secrecy.

The workplace award went to a public prosecutor in Zurich who, during a secret nightly search, had examined the contents of the paper waste baskets of all 100 employees at his office. The reason for the search remains unknown but after the exposure of the search the paper shredder at the office became much more popular. The government award went to the city of Emmen for having appointed the first inspector in Switzerland in charge of investigating social security fraud. The life-time award was given, as a comfort, to the police commissioner of the city of Biel-Bienne. The poor man has been trying for years to promote CCTV but saw his aspirations blocked repeatedly by the city council. A positive Winkelried-Award for people or institutions that fight against control and surveillance went to the human right group Augenauf. The group registers pre-paid mobile phones on the names of its members, in order to comply with the newly introduced Swiss mandatory registration for pre-paid GSM. They give the phones to asylum seekers who lack the proper documents to register themselves.

The Swiss jury consisted of journalists, politicians and representatives of consumer organisations and trade unions.

The first Big Brother Awards ceremony in the Czech republic was organised by the Czech NGO Iuridicum Remedium on 28 October in Prague. Awards were given in 8 categories. The city of Prague and its mayor Pavel Bém in the category won an award as Greatest State Institution Intruder for their massive and uncritical support of the implementation of CCTV. Supermarket chain Tesco was awarded in the category Greatest Corporate Invader for their reluctance to inform customers and employees about the companies practice in dealing with the personal data of customers and employees, the extensive implementation of camera surveillance in the stores and the possible experiments with the introduction of RFID chip technology. The European Commission got an International Snooper award for its proposal on data retention. The Czech Credit Bureau got a prize in the category Lifetime Menace for building an extensive database of personal information with client banking information. A positive prize for the protection of privacy went to the cryptographic software PGP and its inventor Phil Zimmermann. The jury of the Czech Big Brother Awards included the former chief of the Czech Data Protection Office, a member of the Bureau of European Parliament and representatives of consumer organisations, trade unions and several privacy NGOs.

The sixth German Big Brother Awards were presented in 8 categories on 28 October in Bielefeld. The Communications award went to the State Prosecutor of Schleswig-Holstein for tracking all 700 mobile phone users who had been near a crime scene. In a press statement the police made it clear that mobile phone users who did not report as a witness would arouse suspicion. In the category Consumer Protection the prize was won by the organisational committee of the 2006 football world cup for sharing customer data with sponsors, and for the use of RFID spy-chips in the tickets and thus the attempt to make this surveillance technology acceptable. The regional award went to a primary school near Bünde and two local banks for sharing the names of first time school pupils without the parents’ consent. The banks used the information to advertise starter accounts. The Lifetime Achievement award was won by Otto Schily, the former Federal Minister of the Interior for the introduction of the biometric passport and his persistent efforts to expand surveillance systems and erode data protection under the guise of public security and the fight against terror. The German jury consisted of representatives of privacy NGOs, the humanist union and the international human rights league.

In Vienna the seventh edition of the Austrian Big Brother Awards saw awards in six categories. The Business award went to the cleaning company Assa. They take fingerprint and DNA samples of all cleaning personnel because, according to the companies website, most of the personnel originates from Eastern countries. The judges of the Austrian criminal courts won a joint award for authorising an explosive rise in telephone surveillance. The makers of the online computer game ‘World of Warcraft’ won an award for installing spy software on the computers of gamers without their consent. The metro in Vienna won the publics choice award for installing a new CCTV system while crime statistics are falling rapidly. A positive prize, the Defensor Libertatis award, went to the European Parliament for resisting software patents and voting against the transfer of air passengers data to the US. Lawyers, journalists and privacy NGO took part in the Austrian jury.

The next Big Brother Award ceremonies will take place in Australia (8 November) and for the first time in South Korea (22 November). Since the Big Brother Awards were launched in 1998 in the UK by Privacy International in total 60 award ceremonies took place around the world.

Big Brother Awards Switzerland 2005

Big Brother Awards Czech Republic 2005

Big Brother Awards Germany 2005

Big Brother Awards Austria 2005

Big Brother Awards International