Feeds

US wins David Blunkett Lifetime Menace Award

VISIT program honoured

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

3 Big data security analytics techniques

Big Brother awards 2004 The UK's sixth annual Big Brother awards last night honoured outstanding achievement by those individuals and organisations who make your business their business, and generally interfere with, snoop on, aggravate and irritate the public with their activities.

Laurels were bestowed to recipients in five categories: Worst Public Servant, Most Invasive Company, Most Appalling Project, Most Heinous Government Organisation and Lifetime Menace Award - now renamed the David Blunkett Lifetime Menace Award. Human rights watchdog Privacy International, which organises the awards, said it was overwhelmed by nominations for Blunkett, the Home Office and national ID cards but since each had been recognised in previous years different candidates were considered instead.

And the winners are...

WORST PUBLIC SERVANT: The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Minister of State for Children

Margaret Hodge has received numerous nominations because of her patronage of the controversial tracking provisions in the Children Bill and for her determination to develop a wide spectrum of intrusive databases and information systems. Event host Mark Thomas joked that Hodge wasn't available to collect the award because she was at home "tattooing her children". Runner-up in the "Worst Public Servant" category were joint nominees Katherine Courtney, director of Home Office's identity cards programme and Stephen Harrison, head of the identity card policy unit at the Home Office. PI described the duo as the "largely invisible figures behind the National Identity Card scheme and have steered the project since its inception in 2002. They were, of course, just following orders". Home Affairs Committee minutes on their activities can be found here and here.

MOST INVASIVE COMPANY: British Gas

The utility earned its gong for its "unfounded and cowardly claim that the Data Protection Act was the reason why an elderly couple died after British Gas had disconnected their gas supply". British Gas edged out Lloyds TSB and mobile phone tracking outfit FollowUS in the closely-contested category. Lloyds TSB was nominated for its "unnecessary and possibly unlawful threats to freeze the accounts of customers who fail to attend a branch and produce identity documents", a procedure described by the bank as an "initiative" backed by the Financial Services Authority. FollowUS earned a nomination for marketing mobile phone tracking services that can be used to locate people "for peace of mind, security or fun".

MOST APPALLING PROJECT: The NHS National Programme for IT

The NHS won a "Most Heinous Government Organisation" award in 2000 because of its plans to computerise all patient records in a way that is both insecure and dangerous to patient privacy. Its 'victory' this year reflects the gravity of concerns over these continuing plans. Other nominees were Vodafone, for its systematic default blocking of all "adult" websites, and the Safe Harbor Agreement. This initiative, drawn up by the EU and the US, provides a basis for the transmission to the US of personal information on EU citizens. PI comments: "At best the scheme can be described as inadequate. At worst it is a means of circumventing European privacy law and fooling people into a belief that their information is being protected within the US border."

MOST HEINOUS GOVERNMENT ORGANISATION: The Office of National Statistics

The Office of National Statistics earned the ire of judges for its development of the "Citizen Information Project" that will collate and share unprecedented amounts of data on the entire population. Runner-up in the category was the Department for Transport which caught the judges' eyes thanks to its electronic vehicle identification (EVI) programme, otherwise known as the "Spy in the Dashboard". The scheme involves an embedded chip will automatically report to authorities a wide range of offences including speeding, road tax evasion and illegal parking.

LIFETIME MENACE: The US VISIT Programme

Privacy International took the unusual step of shortlisting a US initiative for the UK awards because of the "almost total silence on the US over this programme". US VISIT will fingerprint all visitors to the US from September of this year. "The scheme is offensive and invasive, and has been undertaken with little or no debate or scrutiny. The UK government has been silent about the programme and has capitulated every step of the way," PI comments. US VISIT edged out The Rt Hon Charles Clarke MP for last night's most high profile award. Charles Clarke backed the controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill as a Home Office Minister. Now as Secretary of State for Education & Skills he has responsibility for the Children portfolio occupied by Margaret Hodge (see nomination above). "His activities at Cabinet level pose an ongoing threat to privacy," the judges said.

Each of the "winners" received a gold award - a statue in the shape of a boot stamping on a human head, an image derived for George Orwell's classic novel 1984.

Commenting on the awards, Simon Davies, Director of Privacy International, said: "The winning nominations reflect a broad and intensified assault on the right to privacy in the UK. There is a clear hostility within government to privacy and a general antagonism to it from within business. We have seen few instances where privacy has been genuinely respected by large organisations."

"Almost all large government projects attempt to compromise the right to privacy. The proclaimed need for protection of children and the fight against terrorism has often been shamelessly used as the pretext for privacy invasion. We are seeing a race to the bottom where government and private sector alike compete to provide the most intrusive services in the most unstable environment for privacy," he added.

PI said the European Commission has "adopted a key role in leading the assault on privacy", prompting consideration of a EU-wide Big Brother Award.

Since their inception in 1998, the Big Brother Awards are now held as an annual event in seventeen countries (including the US, France, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Hungary, the Netherlands, Finland and Switzerland). The UK event will be the 41st Big Brother Award ceremony. A panel of experts consisting of lawyers, academics, consultants, journalists and civil rights activists judged the 2004 awards.

Privacy International is engaged in numerous initiatives, including a comprehensive study of anti-terrorism policy developments worldwide that will be published in September. On a more upbeat note, yesterday's award night marked the launch of Privacy International's new website. ®

Bootnote

Readers with a particular aversion to the Dave Blunkett's volunatry/compulsory ID card scheme will be delighted to learn that Reg e-commerce tentacle Cash'n'Carrion is now carrying the campaigning NO2ID t-shirt, fighting the good fight on behalf of www.no2id.net. You can have a snoop here.

Related stories

Shortlist for privacy 'Oscars' announced
Uncle Sam fingerprints visitors
What's the point of NHS IT? No one knows
Vodafone's adult filter is go
ID cards: a guide for technically-challenged PMs
Blunkett states ID card aims but can he achieve them?
Big Brother nominated for Google Award
World's most stupid security measures named and shamed
2003 Big Brother Awards: The Winners

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
Whoever you vote for, Google gets in
Report uncovers giant octopus squid of lobbying influence
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.