2011 was the first year when we bestowed the BigBrotherAwards in spring. Due to the move from the previous autumn date, there had not been an awards gala in 2010. A new feature this year was the “Newspeak” award, and the chosen winner was “Mindestspeicherdauer” [“minimum storage period”, a neologism invented by conservative politicians seeking to reintroduce telecommunications data retention after it had been ruled illegal by the German Federal Constitutional Court, and after the previous term “Vorratsdatenspeicherung“ was known to have fallen out of the German public’s favour despite being a euphemism itself]. Further awardees were the German Federal Customs Administration and the chairman of the Census Commission.
The Jury 2011
Rena Tangens & padeluun, FoeBuD e.V., Sönke Hilbrans Deutsche Vereinigung für Datenschutz e.V., Frank Rosengart & Andreas Bogk Chaos Computer Club e.V., Internationale Liga für Menschenrechte, Prof. Dr. Peter Wedde Europäische Akademie der Arbeit, Werner Hülsmann Forum InformatikerInnen für Frieden und gesellschaftliche Verantwortung e.V., Martin Haase neusprech.org
The BigBrotherAward 2011 in the “Workplace” category goes to the German Federal Customs Administration. They allow themselves to be exploited by the Russian state as they require German companies to cross-check their employees against Russian anti-terror lists. These lists are compiled by the Russian secret service FSB (formerly KGB) pursuant to a confidential Russian law. In consequence, energy companies, for example, that comply with the obligations of the Federal Customs Administration will subsequently be favoured by GASPROM for energy supplies. There are now several hundred German companies participating in the process.
– Attention: April Fool's Day! – It is not GASPROM that is favouring customers, but European and American companies. To participate in trade facilitation agreements, companies are asked to agree to voluntary security checks. These involve cross-checking employee data against European and sometimes US anti-terror lists, even though this practice is prohibited by German data protection legislation.
The BigBrotherAward 2011 in the category Government and Administration goes to the chairman of the Census Commission, Prof. Dr. Gert G. Wagner for the all-encompassing population survey in Germany called “Zensus 2011”. He is awarded this negative prize representatively for all those involved. The current census will create profiles from more than 80 million people’s sensitive data, which will be stored in person-related form for up to four years after the deadline of 9 May 2011. Data from population registers, the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit), and federal employers are misused for the purpose without adequately informing citizens, and without any means for appeal.
The BigBrotherAward 2011 in the category Technology goes to the fashion brand Peuterey, represented by the Düsseldorf fashion agency Torsten Müller. This negative prize is awarded to Peuterey for covertly deploying RFID tags in clothes. These tags are remotely readable, unnoticed by the customer. The tab containing this “spy chip” is imprinted “Don't remove this label”, without any information about the hidden chip. This is a massive violation of the customers' rights to informational self-determination.
The BigBrotherAward 2011 in the category “Consumer Protection” goes to the Verlag für Wissen und Innovation (“Publishing House for Knowledge and Innovation”, proprietor: Mr Horst Müller, Starnberg), for skimming pupils’ and parents’ address data in exchange for book coupons. This “publisher” – who has no books of its own to sell in stores, but engages in business relations to a manufacturer of vitamin pills and to financial investment advisers instead – makes schools distribute book coupons to children on its behalf. But to receive these “gifts”, the child's name and the name of at least one parent have to be supplied. The BigBrotherAwards jury finds this practice particularly reprehensible because schools should not be abused as data pools for business interests.
The BigBrotherAward 2011 in the “Workplace” category goes to Daimler AG in Stuttgart for requiring blood tests from their entire production workforce. This kind of modern-day vampirism is practised in disregard of personality rights and mostly without any such need in industrial law. Daimler had originally demanded these blood tests from their administrative employees as well, but this practice has been discontinued. Daimler receive this award as a representative for several German companies that require such blood tests – because the car manufacturer does not consider the blood tests themselves problematic, but the restrictions on medical practice imposed by data protection legislation.
The BigBrotherAward 2011 in the “Communication” category goes to Facebook Deutschland GmbH for systematically poking its nose into people and their relationships, behind the friendly facade of an ostensibly free service. Facebook stores the collected data in the US – access by secret services enabled, deletion disabled. Via its “friend finder” and “mobile app”, Facebook also grabs hold of email addresses and phone numbers from its users’ address books. The “Like” button on external websites, even if it is not clicked, betrays all page visitors to Facebook. With Facebook, a kind of “gated community” is sprawling across the net in which people are monitored every step of the way. It is governed by the whims of a corporation that is earning billions with systematic privacy violations.
The BigBrotherAward 2011 in the “Politics” Category goes to The Interior Minister of the federal state of Lower Saxony, Uwe Schünemann (CDU, Germany’s conservative party), for the first proven instance of German police using a miniature surveillance drone at a political gathering. During demonstrations and protest events against the transport of nuclear waste in the Wendland region in November 2010, there have been four instances of “flying eyes” covertly spying on and controlling demonstrators from the air. Such airborne surveillance is highly disputed in legal circles – it can violate personality rights of the affected persons, and it can have highly intimidating and deterring effects on participants of a public gathering.
The BigBrotherAwards highlight privacy and data protection offenders in business and politics, they have consequently been called “Oscars for data leeches” by the French paper Le Monde. BigBrotherAwards are an international project. 19 countries have so far given these awards for dubious practices.
The German awards are organised and held by ► Digitalcourage. Among the co-organisers are the German Association for Data Protection (Deutsche Vereinigung für Datenschutz, DVD), International League for Human Rights and the Chaos Computer Club.