Big Brother gongs go out

for privacy wrongs

Geesche Jacobsen

April 25, 2011

TWENTY-SEVEN years ago the world envisaged by George Orwell seemed far-fetched.

But when the Privacy Foundation announced its Big Brother Awards for this year, the range of contenders would probably have made Orwell proud.

”We already have Newspeak, we’ve got TV which at the moment doesn’t look at us, but that’s not far off. There’s two-way communication on the streets … There’s GPS,” said Julie Cameron, co-ordinator of the awards. The foundation’s spoof awards for privacy intruders seek to draw attention to privacy invasions. 

This year’s winners include Facebook (worst corporate invader), airport body scanners (most invasive technology) and Google’s previous chief executive Eric Schmidt who said Street View’s data collection had caused ”no harm” (boot in the mouth award).

The Queensland driver’s licence and Victorian public transport myki smartcard which links travel data to personal information were joint winners of the award for worst public agency.

Dr Cameron thinks Orwell would recognise our world. ”We’ve gone from capturing data to capturing images of people’s faces and being able to match images in real time. We have a real change in the way people are tracked,” she said.

Some of the nominees responded to the foundation, defending their privacy record. ”I think they are concerned with the public reaction to breaches of privacy,” Dr Cameron said.

The federal government, for example, defended the airport scanners with reference to the need to detect security threats and its plans to introduce the ”stick figure images” for enhanced privacy.

Already there seems to be a contender for next year following reports that the iPhone stores the co-ordinates of its location for a year in a secret file which is duplicated to the owner’s computer when synchronised.

with Guardian News & Media

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha