In the first BigBrotherAwards after the Snowden revelations, winners included the Federal Chancellery, spy software makers CSC, and long-distance coach operator MeinFernbus. For the very first time, a positive award was bestowed this year. The “Julia and Winston award“ was given to Edward Snowden and presented by Heribert Prantl, head of the interior politics section of Süddeutsche Zeitung. It came with an endowment of 1 million stickers featuring Snowden’s image and calling on the German government to grant him political asylum. These stickers were distributed all over Germany in the following six months.
The German BigBrotherAward in the Politics Category goes to the Federal Chancellery (Bundeskanzleramt) for their involvement in the NSA surveillance scandal and for their lack of defensive and protective action. One of the Chancellery’s roles is top-level supervision over the foreign agency, Federal Intelligence Service (Bundesnachrichtendienst, BND) and over any cooperations that the three federal secret services have with each other and with other agencies in Germany or abroad. German secret services work closely with the US agency NSA, whose actions have violated international and human rights law, and with other secret services. The BND and their interior counterpart, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz) are participating in NSA surveillance measures, spying programmes and infrastructures. German governments past and present have failed to avert crimes and violations of civil rights linked to mass eavesdropping and digital espionage. They have recklessly neglected to protect German citizens and companies affected by industrial espionage from further hostile attacks.
For the first time, we introduce a positive award this year. The “Julia and Winston Award” was named after the “rebellious” main characters in George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984”, from which the “Big Brother”concept is also taken. The award is to honour persons who have taken an extraordinary stand against surveillance and data collection mania. The award comes with an endowment of one million – not one million Euro, though. The award speech for the first Julia and Winston award is held by Heribert Prantl, senior editor and head of the interior politics section of Süddeutsche Zeitung.
The BigBrotherAward 2014 in the category Transport goes to MeinFernbus GmbH (approx.: My Long-Distance Bus, Ltd.) for obliging passengers to always show an official ID along with the travel ticket they booked online. This makes anonymous bus journeys impossible. MeinFernbus GmbH does not give any legal or other reasons why producing an ID should be necessary. There is the option to try buying a ticket in cash when boarding, but this entails the risk that the bus is fully booked and one cannot travel. Additionally, buying tickets on board is more expensive than booking them in advance via the Internet.
The BigBrotherAward in the “Technology” category goes to the “Spies in our Cars”, which look over our shoulders wherever we drive, collecting data, and sometimes even uploading it to the “cloud”. It is difficult to name a culprit: car manufacturers cite legal requirements on the one hand, and on the other hand they point to third-party providers that offer services such as localisation and navigation to the driver. This BigBrotherAward also looks to the future: the planned European distress call system “e-Call” will have to prove in practice that it really has been implemented in a way that respects privacy.
The BigBrotherAward 2014 in the “Business” Category goes to CSC (Computer Sciences Corporation). The company is currently working on commissions by 10 Federal German Ministries on security-related projects, such as the electronic identity card, the De-Mail project for exchanging legal electronic documents, and the nation-wide firearms registry. At the same time, the parent company functions as the external IT department of US secret services, and it has organised rendition flights to torture prisons for the CIA.
The BigBrotherAward 2014 in the Workplace category goes to RWE Vertrieb AG (RWE is Germany’s second-largest energy utility company, and RWE Vertrieb is its sales subsidiary). The company makes subcontractors use a surveillance software by “Verint Systems”. This software can produce a continuous record of conversations and desktop activities without the workers’ knowledge. This is a representative award for all companies that make use of recording technologies to evaluate call-center workers. And, by the way: Verint Systems also produces monitoring technology for secret services such as the NSA.
The South Korean electronics manufacturer LG receives the BigBrotherAward in the Consumer Protection category because the “smart” TV sets they sell transmitted detailed information about what people were watching to the firm’s HQ in South Korea, via the Internet. With the help of such information, so-called metadata, one can find out the most intimate details about individual people. The LG devices thus invaded the private lives of unsuspecting people.
We can tell others a lot about ourselves in conversations. What really strips us naked, though, is our metadata. They tell others what we think, plan, and do.
Translations for the reprimands are not yet available, sorry.
In 2014 we continued our tradition of asking our audience which of the awards they regarded as particularly “impressive, surprising, shocking, or outrageous”.
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.