Patrice Riemens on Thu, 29 Oct 1998 11:53:22 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Big Brother Awards

By Internet Correspondent Chris Nuttall

The first annual awards defending the individual's right to privacy have
been made at a ceremony in London. 

The 1998 UK Big Brother Awards were held on the 50th anniversary of the
writing of George Orwell's novel, 1984. 

The pressure group Privacy International announced winners it judged to be
the modern-day equivalents of Big Brother in the novel, as well as
individuals who had fought to protect privacy, awarding them Winstons, the
name of the book's hero. 

Privacy awards to go global

The academics, writers and lawyers who make up Privacy International
concentrated their first awards on the UK, but plan to extend them to
other countries over the next few years. 

Hosting the awards, the activist comedian Mark Thomas said eight other
countries were interested in holding similar ceremonies next year. 

The director of Privacy International, Simon Davies, said the time was now
right for the awards. 

"Surveillance has now become an inbuilt component of every piece of
information technology on the planet, we've got a long way to go to wind
the clock back. I think these awards are the beginning of a movement," he

And the winners are .. 

The Big Brothers were given for a number of categories: 

Corporation: The British firm Procurement Services International received
a Big Brother award for selling surveillance equipment to Nigeria, Turkey
and Indonesia, three countries whose human rights records have been
severely criticised. 

Local government: Newham Council in London won for using its 140 street
cameras and facial-recognition software to try to pick out criminals in

National government: The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) was named
a Big Brother over its plans for the police to have access through a third
party to the keys to any information sent electronically that was locked
by encryption. 

Product: Software by Harlequin that examines telephone records and is able
to compare numbers dialled in order to group users into 'friendship
networks' won this category. It avoids the legal requirements needed for
phone tapping. 

Lifetime achievement award: Menwith Hill in Yorkshire, a listening station
used by America's National Security Agency and described as the biggest US
spy station in the world, won this special award. 

None of the winners were present to accept their awards. But a video was
shown of a receptionist at Newham Council receiving a Big Brother earlier
in the day and of several police dragging a Privacy International
campaigner out of the DTI's headquarters after he had tried to present it. 

Winstons were awarded to three individuals, cited for campaigning at
Menwith Hill, documenting police surveillance and pursuing a privacy case
against a landlord who had installed a two-way mirror in a 19-year-old
woman's flat. 

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