The Big Brother Awards

In Montreal, Canada, at the Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference in May 2007, Privacy International presented the first International Big Brother Awards. The "winners" of the Big Brother Awards are, in the words of Privacy International, "the government and private sector organisations which have done the most to threaten personal privacy". Read on to find out who Privacy International dubbed the world's worst invaders of privacy in each of five categories.

In Montreal, Canada, at the Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference in May 2007, Privacy International presented the first International Big Brother Awards. The "winners" of the Big Brother Awards are, in the words of Privacy International:

the government and private sector organisations which have done the most to threaten personal privacy

National Big Brother Awards have been presented in sixteen countries since 1998, but 2007 was the first instance of an International Big Brother Awards presentation, where the worst offenders in the world were recognized for their contributions to the growth of surveillance societies.

The winners in five categories (you may want to disable cookies in your browser and make sure you're behind a good firewall before visiting any of their websites) were:

Most Invasive Company: Choicepoint

"technology and information for confident, smart decisions"

In the company's own words:

  1. ChoicePoint delivers comprehensive credentialing, background screening, authentication, direct marketing and public records services to businesses and nonprofit organizations.
  2. ChoicePoint provides information, analysis and distribution solutions to advance the efforts of law enforcement, public safety, healthcare, child support enforcement, entitlement and other public agencies.
  3. Learn how to request the information ChoicePoint has about you. If an insurance company, potential employer, potential landlord or nonprofit organization has recently ordered reports about you from ChoicePoint, you can obtain copies of those reports at no charge. If there is information in your reports that you believe to be incorrect, we will show you how to dispute it, free of charge.

In Wikipedia's words:

ChoicePoint is a data aggregation company based in Alpharetta, near Atlanta, Georgia, USA, that acts as a private intelligence service to government and industry.

According to Privacy International, Choicepoint was nominated "for their vast databases of personal data, sold to nearly anyone who wishes to pay".

Other nominees included Booz Allen Hamilton, Google, and SWIFT.

Worst Public Official: Stewart Baker

former general counsel for the National Security Agency and current Assistant Secretary for Policy at the Department of Homeland Security

According to Stewart A. Baker's DHS Website biography:

Stewart A. Baker was appointed by President Bush to be Assistant Secretary for Policy for the Department of Homeland Security and confirmed by the U.S. Senate on October 7, 2005.

In Wikipedia's words:

Stewart Abercrombie Baker (born 17 July 1947) is the Assistant Secretary for Policy for the United States Department of Homeland Security (as of 2006).

According to Privacy International, Stewart Baker was nominated because he was "behind and at the forefront of most disastrous U.S. surveillance policies, most recently the EU-U.S. agreement on Passenger Name Records transfers".

Other nominees included UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin, and former US Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez.

Most Heinous Government: The United Kingdom

In the words of the UK Directgov website:

The full title of this country is 'the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland'. 'The UK' is made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 'Great Britain' (or just 'Britain') does not include Northern Ireland. The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are not part of the UK.

In Wikipedia's words:

The United Kingdom is a parliamentary democracy with its seat of government in London, the capital. It is a constitutional monarchy with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II the head of state. The Crown Dependencies of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, formally possessions of the Crown, are not part of the UK but form a federacy with it. The UK has fourteen overseas territories, all remnants of the British Empire, which at its height encompassed almost a quarter of the world's land surface, making it the largest empire in history.

According to Privacy International, the UK was nominated "for being the greatest surveillance society amongst democratic nations, rivaling only Malaysia, China and Russia as it also leads other countries across the EU down its same path".

Other nominees included China, the United States, Tunisia, and the European Union.

Most Appalling Project or Technology: The International Civil Aviation Organization

a UN agency

In the organization's own words:

ICAO works to achieve its vision of safe, secure and sustainable development of civil aviation through cooperation amongst its member States.

In Wikipedia's Words:

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), an agency of the United Nations, codifies the principles and techniques of international air navigation and fosters the planning and development of international air transport to ensure safe and orderly growth. Its headquarters are located in the Quartier International of Montreal, Canada.

According to Privacy International, the ICAO was nominated "for implementing a variety of invasive policies behind closed doors, including the 'biometric passport' and passenger data transfer-deals".

Other nominees included US Border Policy, the CCTV industry, and India's Ministry for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.

Lifetime Menace Award: The "Common Good"

communitarianism and proponents of the 'Common Good'

The first International Big Brother Awards presentation of the Lifetime Menace Award went to a social phenomenon, rather than an official organization or individual. As such, "its own words" as a summation are quite varied, differing from person to person, and from organization to organization.

In Wikipedia's words:

The common good is a term that can refer to several different concepts. In the popular meaning, the common good describes a specific "good" that is shared and beneficial for all (or most) members of a given community. This is also how the common good is broadly defined in philosophy, ethics, and political science.

According to Privacy International, communitarian "common good" reasoning was nominated "because every bad policy around the world is justified based on the philosophy that [it] is good for society and the individual must sacrifice his or her selfish rights in favour of the needs of the many".

If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - for ever. (George Orwell, 1984)

Finally, let's have a look at . . .

The Award

The award is presented as a golden statue of a boot stamping on a human head, in reference to George Orwell's vision for the future as described in his novel 1984. It is presented to individuals, organizations, policies, and ideas that embody the characteristics conjured by the term "Orwellian".

The results of past Big Brother Awards ceremonies, as well as Big Brother Awards events scheduled for the future, can be found at the Big Brother Awards website.

To find more information about the 2007 International Big Brother Awards winners, see Privacy International's global privacy invaders page.


Chad Perrin is an IT consultant, developer, and freelance professional writer. He holds both Microsoft and CompTIA certifications and is a graduate of two IT industry trade schools.

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