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2003 Big Brother Awards: The Winners

Blair is Lifetime Menace

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Privacy International today announced the winners of the 2003 Big Brother Awards. One of the judges, estimable Dr Ian Brown of the Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR), writes: "It was alternatively amusing and depressing to be one of the judges for these awards. RIP and data retention played a large part in our deliberations..."

Here is Privacy International/FIPR's press release in full.

The judges of the 5th annual UK Big Brother Awards have today (Tuesday 25th March) announced this year's shameless winners.

The awards are presented each year by Privacy International to the most persistent and egregious privacy invaders in Britain. From their inception in London in 1998 they are now an annual event in fifteen
countries.

The gold awards - in the shape of a boot stamping on a human head - will be presented in five categories.

MOST INVASIVE COMPANY: CAPITA This category was a contest between Capita (the company behind many of the government's most controversial surveillance and data management schemes), Argos, which (among other
transgressions) has participated in a customer thumb-printing scheme, and the credit reference giant Experian, which won the company category award in 1999. Capita won because of its long standing involvement in a vast range of government projects.

MOST HEINOUS GOVERNMENT ORGANISATION - ASSOCIATION OF CHIEF POLICE OFFICERS (ACPO) This was a fiercely fought contest between our old favourite the Home Office, and two newcomers: the Lord Chancellor's
Department and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). ACPO won because it has recently gone beyond merely being a patsy for bad government policy, and has taken a more active role in developing and
promoting invasive schemes.

WORST PUBLIC SERVANT - KEN LIVINGSTONE David Blunkett was consistently nominated for this category, but his transgressions against personal privacy have been so grave that the judges also unanimously promoted him to the Lifetime Menace (see below). He competed with Ken Livingston (nominated because of his obsession with travel and transport surveillance), and the government's secretive "Interception of Communications" Commissioner, Sir Swinton Thomas.

MOST APPALLING PROJECT - PIU DATA SHARING REPORT The government's discredited Entitlement Card proposal went head-to-head with the "Data
Sharing" scheme shepherded by the government's Performance & Innovation Unit. The judges felt the Entitlement card idea was just too stupid, woolly and nebulous to win. The other short-listed nomination was
Electronic Voting.

LIFETIME MENACE AWARD - TONY BLAIR This was a fiercely contested category, but Tony Blair was always slightly ahead of the field because of his active involvement in the government's attack on civil liberties. David Blunkett was close on his heels. Capita becomes the second company ever to make it to the Lifetime Menace category.

NEW AWARD: DOG POO ON A STICK Each year the judges consider a nomination that is so odious and contemptible that they are reluctant to agree to spending scarce money on an expensive gold award for the villain. These occasions deserve an appropriate award, and so this year we give the first "Dog Poo On A Stick" prize. It goes to David Blunkett.

Privacy International's Director, Simon Davies, said the award winners reflected the "prolonged and vicious" attack on the right to privacy. He said privacy invasion in Britain has become "a vast industry that threatens the rights of everyone in Britain".

"The judges were overwhelmed this year with a vast number of malodorous nominations. Many politicians and companies have since the September 11th attacks jumped onto the security bandwagon without any justification".

He added "The UK Government is attempting to systematically extinguish the right to privacy. Their plans should be resisted by everyone who cares about freedom".

Privacy International also gave a "Dishonourable Mention" to the Office of the Information Commissioner, and accused the office of complacency
and dereliction of duty. "Because of its consistent failure to adequately promote and protect the principles of privacy the Office is rapidly becoming part of the problem" said Mr Davies.

THE WINSTON WINNERS On a more upbeat and encouraging note, the judges each year give a number of Winston Awards to individuals and organisations who have made an outstanding contribution to the protection of rights and privacy. This year those winners are:

  • Posthumously, to the greatly respected Dr Roger Needham
  • Teri Dowty, Joint national coordinator, Childrens Rights Alliance for England and Wales
  • Marion Chester, Legal Director, Association of Community Health Councils of England and Wales
  • STAND
  • Richard Norton-Taylor and Stuart Millar of the Guardian
  • Undercurrents

Privacy International offers its best wishes and gratitude to these champions of privacy. Their contribution has made a huge difference to the defence of rights in the UK. ®

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