Yesterday evening (October 29th) the five Swiss «Big Brother Awards» were presented at the Casinotheater in Winterthur. Four of these «prizes which nobody wants» have been awarded to individuals or institutions who disregard the basic right of privacy or who promote surveillance and control of individuals or groups. Three awards were given to the most outstanding snoopers in the categories "government", "business" and "telecommunications". Additionally, an appointee for a "lifetime award" was nominated for particularly insistent lifelong snooping activities. In addition to these four negative prizes a "Winkelried Award" was offered for particularly praiseworthy resistance *against* surveillance and control.
The event was jointly organized by the "Swiss Internet User Group SIUG" and the "Archiv Schnüffelstaat Schweiz ASS". This was the third Swiss award ceremony. Among last year's prize winners were the companies Swisscom and Hoffmann-LaRoche, the Swiss Defense Department and Mr. Urs von Däniken, head of a Swiss State Security Agency.
In his keynote, the data privacy commissioner of the municipality of Zurich, Thomas Bärlocher, criticized the tendency of linking personal data of different databases in order to produce «data profiles». Therefore, Bärlocher stressed the importance of data protection.
Nominations for the awards were made by the general public. More than 80 suggestions had been handed in by the end of August 2002. After a preliminary audit by the organizing committee the jury was given a list of 54 candidates for assessment. The jury consisted of eleven person including well-known politicians and media representatives.
The complete nominee list (mainly in german) is available online.
After two award ceremonies in the "Rote Fabrik" Culture Center in Zurich, the satirical event took place for the first time as a guest performance in the Casinotheater Winterthur. As in the previous years, actor Ernst Jenni read a sometimes cynical speech [excerpts will be published on the organizers' web site shortly]. In between the individual category awards, the Duo Volker and Thomas of the "Chaos-Theater Oropax" intervened with sharp-witted satire. Victor Giacobbo, the Casinotheater's host, welcomed the audience with a surprise act. The event was accompanied musically by the Winterthur theatre sport band "Oli and the Penalties".
In the category "government" the main award went to the ZURICH CANTONAL POLICE, represented by Colonel Peter Grütter, for their tracing and journaling database "Joufara II". Amongst the three top-rated nominees were the SWISS FEDERAL STATISTICAL OFFICE for their plans to create a uniform person identification number (PIN) as well as THE NATIONAL GOVERNMENT, represented by the minister for justice and police, Ruth Metzler, for the "emergency decree regarding the extension of information duties and notification rights of authorities, public administration offices and organizations for the guaranteeing of internal and external security" (SR 120.1).
Winner in the "business" category is the company Q-SYS in St Gall. They distribute a computer program for efficient quality management of nursing home residents which they divide into different nursing levels on the basis of up to 250 questions regarding the personality of the residents. The airline SWISS was noted for the installation of video cameras in their Airbus planes. Finally, SWISSCOM FIXNET Ltd. was mentioned for a passage in their general terms and conditions. The jury emphasised the tendency to circumvent governmental data protection regulations by means of broad authorization agreements regarding the processing and distribution of customer information in the small print of contracts.
In the category "telecommunication" the first prize was awarded to Mr. ADRIEN DE WERRA, head of the "Special Affairs" unit in the national Ministry for Environment, Traffic, Energy and Communication. Mr. De Werra demands the expansion of the "Federal law concerning the monitoring of postal and telecommunication traffic" (BÜPF, SR 780.1). Since January 1, 2002, this decree requires telecommunication and Internet service providers to store connection data of their customers for six months. The law further regulates real-time surveillance. If Mr. De Werra has his way, the list (which already includes several dozen articles) will have to be extended in the future. The telco provider SUNRISE was considered praiseworthy for the skillful formulation of their usage terms for Internet services which open the gates for snooping. A further consolation prize was given to a loose coalition of VOCATIONAL SCHOOLS which demand the acceptance of preventive monitoring of all Internet communication including personal mail accounts from their students.
The mysterious "CLUB DE BERNE" was the recipient of this year's "lifetime award" for particularly insistent snooping. According to rumours, this informal association was founded in Berne in 1971 to enable the exchange of classified information between Western states. Today, this exclusive club is said to unite intelligence services from 19 countries. Its true activities, its leadership and its legal basis remain "top secret" and are apparently not even known in the "Bundeshaus" in Berne.
A mention went to HOFFMANN-LA-ROCHE for their hardheadedness in the enforcement of systematic urine sampling for their apprentices. The pharmaceutical giant based in Basle had already been given a "Big Brother Award" in the category "business" last year and was criticized by the Federal Data protection commissioner - as well as other nominees. Currently, the Hoffmann case is pending at the national data protection commission.
The Lausanne criminologist MARTIN KILLIAS was mentioned for his five point crime prevention programme which includes the registration of *all* offenders in a gene database. For the prevention of graffiti, Killias suggested the restriction of aerosol paint sales to adolescents.
Five persons had been nominated for the only positive prize, the "Winkelried Award" (named after a famous mythological figure in Swiss history). In this category for praiseworthy resistance against surveillance and control, Bert Setzer (pseudonym) was selected as the main winner for his "4Q Card", a cloned rebate card which enables its users to anonymously accumulate rebate points using collective accounts for the schemes of both Migros and Coop, Switzerland's two major retail chains.
Mentions went to Stefan S. (pseudonym), who contacted the press after having been interrogated by the federal police about his contacts with the anti-globalisation movement; to Germaine B. (pseudonym), who fought against untenable accusations of theft by her employer COOP; to Annemarie Rey for her campaigning for the right of abortion and the support of womens' personal rights; and to the Winterthur writer jürgmeier who has been actively opposing snooping for several decades, most recently with his book "Staatsfeinde oder SchwarzundWeiss" (State Enemies or Black&White).
All five examples show that moral courage and perseverance are necessary to resist the continous increase of surveillance, control and snooping.
A few days before the event in the Casinotheater Winterthur, award ceremonies also took place in Germany and Austria (on October 25th and 26th, respectively). Hungary will celebrate their "Big Brothers" on November 7, 2002. [For an overview, see www.bigbrotherawards.org].
The first "Big Brother Awards" were issued in 1998 in the United Kingdom (UK) by the organization "Privacy International". Now, ceremonies are held in the USA and in several European countries, including France, Denmark, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands. Further events are planned for Bulgaria, Japan, Australia and South Africa.
During the event in Winterthur, the organizers of the Swiss awards announced that the request for proposals for the "Big Brother Awards 2003" had already started.
The bestowal of the Swiss "snooper prizes" is jointly organized by the "Swiss Internet User Group SIUG" and the "Archiv Schnüffelstaat Schweiz" ASS. It is supported by the association "trash.net" and the on-line trade union "//syndikat". Media partners are the weekly "Die WochenZeitung WoZ" (for the german speaking part of Switzerland) and the daily paper "Le Courrier" (for the french spekaing part). The contests for the Swiss "Big Brother Awards" 2000 und 2001 had been developed in conjunction with the Zurich culture centre "Rote Fabrik".
Further information -- including previous award winners and pictures --
is available under http://www.bigbrotherawards.ch.
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Daniel Boos, Christoph Müller +41 1 382 04 47
Umberto Annino +41 79 680 20 13
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