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Winners of the 2005 'Big Brother Award'

Category: ‘Big Brother Awards’ (or ‘the Orwells’)

See for background, and the media release.

1.  Lifetime Menace Award
– for a privacy invader with a long record of profound disregard for privacy:

Winner:  The NSW Government.

Despite winning two ‘Orwells’ in 2004, for failing to appoint a replacement Privacy Commissioner – after almost two and a half years!


2. Greatest Corporate Invader Award
– for a corporation that has shown a blatant disregard of privacy:

Winner:   Telstra

for their Employee Monitoring and Surveillance procedure, which they not only admit but for which they have an official policy to excuse their behaviour.


Runner-up: CAMM Pacific

for extracting medical information from GP's computers.


Special Mention:  Dun and Bradstreet

for its relentless campaign for so-called 'positive' (= full file) credit reporting.


  • Financial Review 13/10/05 - D & B representatives and president of New York’s Information Policy Institute, Michael Turner, are to meet this week with Attorney-General Philip Ruddock to argue for fuller credit reporting and to lobby for a formal parliamentary inquiry.
  • AAP 17/02/05 - The Consumer Federation of Australia accused banks and credit card companies of "whitewashing" the debate over whether to relax Australia’s privacy laws and allow lenders to pool so-called positive data on loans repaid, rather than just negative data on defaults, which is allowed under the law at present. The CFA said lenders simply wanted help to identify high risk customers, and thus be free to target more promising customers with even more credit. The CFA said there were a number of financiers marketing and lobbying for reform of consumer credit laws, and that those financers were "being quite dishonest." Financial information company Dun & Bradstreet has called on the federal government to hold a parliamentary inquiry into the issue.
  • Financial Review 16/02/05 - Banks and credit card companies renewed their lobbying campaign under which they hope to persuade the federal government to change privacy laws and make it possible for lenders to pool data on loans repaid by borrowers. At present, lenders may only pool data on defaults, or so-called negative reporting. Banks want to engage in so-called positive credit reporting. The industry argues that greater access to personal financial information would allow more sensible lending practices, and avoid loans to those who are heavily indebted but do not admit this in an application for a loan.

3. Worst Public Agency or Official Award
– for a government agency or official that has shown a blatant disregard of privacy:

Winner: Senator Julian McGauran

for disclosing personal details from a woman's medical file (concerning an abortion) in pursuit of an ideological agenda


Runner-up: Victoria Police

for repeated incidents of unauthorised disclosure of personal information from the LEAP database.


4. Most Invasive Technology
– for a technology that is particularly privacy invasive:

Winner:  Health Communications Network

for allowing extraction of medical information from GP Computers.


Runner-up: Hewlett-Packard Co. and Microsoft Corp.

for giving government ID systems the ability to be used to access e-government services and to conduct secure transactions on behalf of citizens.


5. Boot in the Mouth
– for the ‘best’ (most appalling!) quote on a privacy-related topic:

Winner:  Senator Vanstone

for proposing a national ID card to divert attention from the Cornelia Rau immigration bungle.


Runner-up:   Qld Premier Peter Beattie 

for doing the same: suggesting a National ID card without engaging his brain, sparking off months of half baked debate.


6. People’s Choice Award
– for the individual or organisation most frequently nominated by the public:

Winner:  Australian Bureau of Statistics

(a) trying to move the goal posts and become a data collection agency on the entire population – proposing to link census data on 100% of the population over time, retrospectively, and with data from other sources, and
(b) thinking that initially doing the above for only 5% of the population is somehow OK.


The ‘Smiths’ Category, for protectors of our privacy

1. Best Privacy Guardian
– for a meritorious act of privacy protection or defence:

Winner: ACT Chief Minister John Stanhope

For standing up to the federal government and publishing the ‘confidential’ draft Anti-Terrorism Bill, which will authorise serious privacy intrusions, so that the community has a chance to consider and debate the proposed legislation


Runner-up:  Qld Liberal backbench MP Steve Ciobo

for being the first Coalition member to speak out against a proposed national ID card.


2. Lifetime Achievement
– for provision of outstanding services to privacy protection:

Winner: Senator Natasha Stott-Despoja

for continually standing up for privacy – most recently by:

  • initiating the Senate review of the Privacy Act
  • speaking out against the census proposal
  • calling for the deletion of the political party exemption from the Privacy Act, and
  • speaking out against a national ID card.


Media Contact

David Vaile – 0414 731 249
Vice-chair and acting Spokesperson on BBA .au