Reprimands & Commendation (2016)


Again this year we received more nominations than the number of awards we can give. Some of these nominees deserve to be reprimanded at least: Prostitutes Protection Act (Prostituiertenschutzgesetz), Google Impact Challenge and Cashless Festivals.

Prostitutes Protection Act (Prostituiertenschutzgesetz)

The German government is about to finalise its draft of the “Prostitutes Protection Act”. This is mainly intended to be used against forced prostitution. Unfortunately, this law will also make life difficult for those women that are entirely happy with their chosen profession, even though sex work is being discriminated against in Germany even today. From our point of view as the BigBrotherAwards, the law must be reprimanded mostly for two reasons:

Compulsory registration: Via an obligation for sex workers to register and receive medical counselling, there is the hope of obtaining a better overview of the situation. But this amounts to an enforced outing, because there is no reason to trust that these data will be handled with sensitivity. As a result, those (mostly) women who, for example, have children or who also work in another job will not register, to spare their children from bullying or avoid a threat to their other job. But this will expose them to additional threats because they will lose legal protection and be vulnerable to blackmailing. Whether a better picture of forced prostitution will actually emerge from these measures is doubted by many experts.

Inviolability of the home curtailed for all women: Police or local public order authorities will be able to enter a home without the requirement for a judicial decree, if a suspicion is raised that prostitution is taking place there. But a suspicion can easily be raised, be it from a prudish neighbour or a scorned admirer. With the Prostitutes “Protection” Act, a new legal means is created that can unhinge fundamental rights without clear procedural rules. If a suspicion is enough to overrule the inviolability of the home, every woman – sex worker or not – loses the security from arbitrary encroachments by the state in her home.

Google Impact Challenge

With the impact challenge, Google wants to bring the work done by volunteer organisations or associations up to the digital state of the art. In truth though, with the Impact Challenge the corporation can tap into a new data source: civil society. The aim is that organisations use Google products for their internal and external communications, for their topical and administrative work and for their social media campaigns. But that means that the organisations deliver information on themselves, their work and their supporters to Google. Further, they make themselves dependant on Google”s terms of service and privacy conditions. Google is using its power as a de facto monopoly. For its data business we gave Google a BigBrotherAward in 2013. Elsewhere, Google was repeatedly reprimanded for insufficient privacy protections in 2015. In short: Google is the wrong mentor for civil society, which is why it receives a BigBrotherAwards reprimand in 2016.

Cashless Festivals

Visitors of the “Berlin Festival”, “Lollapalooza” and others in 2015 were equipped with an RFID wristband. The alleged intention was to improve crowd control and introduce cashless payment at food and drink stalls. At the Hurricane festival in Scheeßel in Lower Saxony, the introduction of the technology in 2015 meant that on the first day it was simply impossible to buy anything. Still, the operator is waxing lyrical about the incredible advertising opportunities that partners will encounter through these wristbands. And now he knows exactly which people prefer pizza and whether women prefer falafel. The pop critic and deputy head of culture at the daily paper Berliner Zeitung, Jens Balzer, described a “depressing picture of long, silent queues in front of chip charging stations” and concluded: “There is hardly a better illustration for the entanglement of consumption and control in a digital capitalism that has become total.” As he added, talking to public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk: “And I don’t want to spend time with people who just don’t care if anyone has their data.”


About BigBrotherAwards

In a compelling, entertaining and accessible format, we present these negative awards to companies, organisations, and politicians. The BigBrotherAwards highlight privacy and data protection offenders in business and politics, or as the French paper Le Monde once put it, they are the “Oscars for data leeches”.

Organised by (among others):

BigBrother Awards International (Logo)

BigBrotherAwards International

The BigBrotherAwards are an international project: Questionable practices have been decorated with these awards in 19 countries so far.