Opening Adress (2020)

Video Message by Gerhart Baum

Gerhart Baum, Federal Minister of the Interior 1978–1982, has kindly sent us an opening address recorded as a video.

20 years of Big Brother Awards – a reason to celebrate. This is on the background of a revolution, a turning point: The digital revolution, which affects all areas of life. It changes our lives, politics as well, and it needs to be checked. There is very visible progress. The Internet revolution is a driving force for innovation, we all know that.

But there is also a downside. It is called surveillance capitalism, as well as surveillance state. This downside means that human self-determination is under attack. Liberty is in danger. Human dignity is in danger. And the Internet is also an attack on the democratic structures of our society. These can be manipulated, and they are being manipulated. So we must defend ourselves. We must defend against our thoughts being influenced, our behaviour too, against people being turned into subordinates of an algorithm, and digital modernity becoming the record-keeper of our lives. That we must be aware of and defend against. And we must defend against the digital world order getting out of control. We need a world order that is aligned to ethical principles. We need rules in Europe. Some of these rules we have laid down in the General Data Protection Regulation. But still people are not sufficiently protected against these smart networks, this surveillance mechanism. Therefore we must give further attention to the threats that have arisen. The internet is perverted into a machine of hatred. It is used as an instrument, a weapon of suppression. We only need to think about the situation in China. So the question is: How do we want to live in the future, as citizens that determine their own course, or as subjects of a smart dictatorship?

And this is where Big Brother Awards come in. It is where your initiative starts. What you are doing is very important. Because you raise awareness. Many people do not care. But it is important that they realise that these developments must be kept in check, they have to be shaped, and they have to be submitted to ethical principles. 20 years of Big Brother Awards have shown that you have raised awareness, and you have brought some issues forward to public attention for the first time. Scoring, loyalty cards, all kinds of issues did you raise.

You are an established voice. You have become an important fixture of the debate on Internet threats to freedom ever since you started. You began your activities in 1987. I supported you since then and I want to continue to do so. You do important and valuable work, educating and starting debates in society about these developments. And that is indispensable. Which is why I wish that you will continue your work at full strength. And I will be happy to support you. Heartfelt congratulations, and all the best.


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.