Big Brother Awards Given Again
Electronic Frontier Finland - Effi ry
Electronic Frontier Finland (Effi) has granted the Big Brother awards for the sixth time in Finland. The event aims to raise awareness about threats against basic civil rights, especially on privacy. Big Brother Awards honour largest abuses of privacy in both public and private sector during the last year. A positive Winston Smith award is also granted for praiseworthy defence of basic rights.
Award winners are chosen by a panel of experts from list of nominees. Nominations can be made by anyone. Members of the panel this year were Internet activist Johan "Julf" Helsingius, IT researcher Timo Kiravuo, member of parliament Martti Korhonen, political science researcher Iivi Masso and Tapani Tarvainen, President of Effi.
The corporate series Big Brother Award was given to the GPS vehicle tracking PANDA project and the companies (Pohjola, Aplicom, Nokia,
Destia and Astarte) involved for their meritorious cooperative to gradually erode privacy of motorists by tempting them to get involved in GPS tracking trial. The obvious goal is conditioning people, bit by bit, to accept the idea that Good Big Brothers always know where everyone is. Nokia Siemens Network and Sampo/Danske received honorary mentions, NSN for exporting surveillance technology to Iran and Sampo/Danske for their Internet banking software collecting all kinds of information from their customers' computers.
The public sector award was granted to the constitutional law committee for nimbly bending to political pressure and ignoring its own former policies. Especially the doctrine "private companies do not need to respect basic rights", developed for Lex Nokia, has lots of potential. In addition to confidentiality of communication, it will probably be applied to personal integrity and other basic rights as well. Panelists also respectfully remembered the earlier brilliance of the committee when ruling that censorship is constitutional.
Among others the Swedish nation and the Finnish Green Party were left without award. Even if the Swedish FRA law was an exceptionally upright demonstration of big brother attitude, it was only single act. The Green Party's attempts to erode citizens' privacy with GPS tracking were deemed too feeble to deserve an award.
The award for the individual category was granted to Minister of Communications Suvi Lindén for her persistent work on removing the protection of privacy that hinders the surveillance of citizens. The panel recalled with warm feelings Minister Lindén's assertive statement on employers' right to demand even that employees strip naked when leaving the place of work. The panelists noted that this was no random stroke of genius of Lindén's, but a coherent follow-up to her work on decimating human rights: She has previously distinguished herself as a proponent of data retention, Internet censorship as well as electronic voting.
Ritva Viljanen, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of the Interior, reached the second place with her actions to criminalise thought crimes. National Police Commissioner Mikko Paatero earned honorary mention with his aims to scrap journalistic protection of sources and his clear views that right to privacy is secondary to security concerns.
Positive Winston Smith award was bestowed upon citizen activist Matti Nikki for his steadfast battle for upholding civil rights. Mr Nikki has acted unselfishly, without consideration of unpleasant consequences which have become true: Mr Nikki's website criticising censorship is still on the censorship list and the official view appears to be that there should not be any way to appeal. With his actions Nikki has helped in work against child pornography by showing that censorship is not only useless but is in fact even harmful by diverting resources which should be used in truly effective, though less media sexy police work.
President, Electronic Frontier Finland ry
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Vice-president, Electronic Frontier Finland ry
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Electronic Frontier Finland - Effi ry was founded to defend basic rights also in the Internet. The association aims to affect legislation on e.g. freedom of speech, copyright and privacy issues in Finland and Europe Effi is a charter member of European Digital Rights. Further information from Effi home page, http://www.effi.org/.