ENDitorial: Finnish Big Brother Awards on Effi's 10th birthday

By EDRi · September 21, 2011

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Deutsch: [ENDitorial: Finnische Big Brother Awards zu EFFis 10. Geburtstag | http://www.unwatched.org/EDRigram_9.18_ENDitorial_Finnische_Big_Brother-Awards_zu_EFFis_10_Geburtstag?pk_campaign=edri&pk_kwd=20111004]

EDRi member Electronic Frontier Finland (Effi) organized the seventh Big
Brother Awards (BBA) in Finland on 11 September 2011 as part of
the celebration events of Effi’s tenth birthday.

Electronic Frontier Finland – Effi – was founded in 2001, a few days before
the 9/11 attack, by people who were concerned about freedom of expression
and information getting trampled by commercial interests, abuse of
copyright, and DRM techniques. In ten years Effi has grown into an
organization of nearly 2000 members. Lawmakers and media ask for Effi’s
opinion in matters of Internet and information society; citizens whose
digital rights are violated by government or companies turn to Effi for

Before the BBA ceremony, Effi held a seminar chaired by president Timo
Karjalainen, viewing the history and future of digital rights. Two
ex-presidents of Effi, Ville Oksanen and Tapani Tarvainen, talked about
Effi’s challenges and victories in the past. For example, in 2003, Effi
managed to prevent some freedom of speech restrictions for professional
media from being expanded to private websites. Effi also got Finnish MEPs to
cooperate in turning down the software patent directive.

Despite Effi’s efforts, some bad laws have been passed. The web censorship
law – or the “Law about measures to prevent spreading child pornography” in
Newspeak – that authorizes the Police to keep a secret blacklist of urls to
be blocked came into effect in 2008. Matti Nikki (the Winston Smith awardee
of 2010) found out that most of the urls had nothing to do with child
abuse, and wrote this on his website. Soon Nikki’s website was on the
blacklist! After three years of fighting, the Supreme administrative court
finally ordered the police to remove his site from the blacklist. Today,
most operators do not block sites according to the list and some offer
blocking optionally, so the law is practically useless.

In the seminar, two speakers viewed Effi “by outsider’s eyes”. Network
expert Mikko Kenttälä noted how protecting networks from abuse might raise
privacy issues. He recommended that Effi take more actions like radio
campaigns for a wide audience in addition to talking to politicians. Writer
and game designer Ville Vuorela told he regularly got involved in
conversations with people who think Effi is a bunch of pirates wanting to
rob artists their work for free, or want to spread child pornography. Ville
usually manages to correct these misunderstandings and make people see why
Effi represents the good and sensible view against the evils of the world.

Erka Koivunen, head of CERT-FI team in Finnish Communications Regulatory
Authority, talked about his work: promoting security in the information
society by preventing, observing, and solving information security incidents
and disseminating information on threats to information security.

The final talk before the BBA ceremony was given by Internet researcher
Mikko Särelä about anonymous communication. Recently, some authoritative
people including the Minister for Foreign Affairs have voiced opinions that
anonymous writing on Internet should be prohibited because it is usually
racist or otherwise offensive. Mikko emphasised the importance of anonymity
in contexts like Alcoholics Anonymous, or teenagers insecure about their
sexual orientations seeking for peer support. The cure for offensive talk on
newspaper websites is coherent moderation, not control of the whole

In the BBA, the public sector category had several strong competitors, like
VTT Technical Research Center of Finland, which generously lets its
scientists keep their jobs as long as they don’t discuss their research in
public without permission. The tight game was won by the Ministry of
Internal affairs, which bravely fought against crime by letting the police
break into citizens’ computers and disable security mechanisms.

The business category winner is Google, which recorded not only Street Views
but also wireless Internet traffic, “by accident”. This performance was
rated even higher than that of Nokia Siemens Network, whose mobile tracking
system has helped dictators in Iran and Bahrain.

The winner of the individual category is Tuija Brax, former Minister of
Justice. Her achievements include a law that enables cutting off the
Internet connection for mere suspicion of infringing copyright – no need to
bother courts of law.

Special Life Work Award went to Jouni Laiho, a civil servant who creatively
combined the powers Montesquieu separated.

Effi also gave Winston Smith Prizes to two civil servants who have fought
against the Big Brother. Sami Kiriakos wrote a memo that led to
decriminalisation of using open WLANs; Tomi Voutilainen has publicly
defended e-mail privacy and criticized spending taxpayers’ money on useless
control mechanisms. A special 19.84 euro international prize was given to
James Love, director of KEI.

Photos and comments from the event (only in Finnish)

Press release: Finnish Big Brother Awards 2011 (14.09.2011)

(Contribution by Virpi Kauko, EDRi-member Effi)