Winners of the 2006 'Big Brother Award'
"Freedom necessarily involves the right to determine who should have access to our personal information. The more our information is available to the prying eyes of government and corporate interests, the less freedom we enjoy." Laura Sigal – 2006 BBA judge
The dozens of nominations for the 2006 Australian Big Brother Awards illustrated a continued loss of freedom – mostly as a result of deliberate government policies. The very governments we rely on for our privacy laws are themselves the worst intruders.
See www.privacy.org.au/bba/2006/ for background, and the media release.
1. Greatest Corporate Invader Award
– for a corporation that has shown a blatant disregard of privacy:
Winner: The banks, for dealings with SWIFT
The 2006 ‘Orwell’ for Greatest Corporate Invader was shared by all Australian banks.
This was for continuing to send personal information to the worldwide financial messaging service SWIFT even after confirmation that the entire information set was being provided to US national security agencies, in breach of privacy laws or expectations in many countries.
European regulators have already found that European banks breached EU data protection laws by using SWIFT, and a complaint remains before the Australian Privacy Commissioner.
Note: Subsequently the European Union has found that European banks breached EU data protection laws for their use of SWIFT.
Runners-up: Direct Health Solutions, PMP
Judges found the choice of runner-up too difficult and made two awards:
- Direct Health Solutions, for providing an "absence management service" using call centre nurses to interrogate employees phoning in sick
- PMP – a distributor of unaddressed junk mail – for providing an "absence management service", requiring all deliverers to wear a GPS unit for tracking their ‘walks’ in real time.
See article at http://www.theage.com.au/news/National/Callcentre-nurses-busting-sickies/2006/11/11/1162661952331.html#
Special Mention: greypages.net and boonghunter.com
Dishonourable mentions as ‘corporate invaders’ also went to the websites of greypages.net and boonghunter.com, for circumventing very clear prohibition on the availability of ‘reverse search’ telephone directories.
2. Worst Public Agency or Official Award
– for a government agency or official that has shown a blatant disregard of privacy:
Winner: Justice Minister Chris Ellison, for the ‘Abolition of Financial Privacy’ legislation
The award for worst public agency or official went to Federal Justice Minister Chris Ellison for the ‘Abolition of Financial Privacy’ legislation, masquerading as the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Bill (who could possibly object to that?).
The legislation turns thousands of bank tellers and other employees into amateur spies – with a legal obligation to report anyone who may be ‘acting suspiciously’ - which could be just because you have the flu or suffered a bereavement.
The tens of thousands of reports remain secret, so you will never know if the government has you listed as a suspect.
Subsequent to the nomination, the legislation has passed and the government rejected 66 of 96 recommendations in the Privacy Impact Assessment.
Runner-up: medical researchers at LaTrobe University, for a sexual health research study
The runner-up award in this category went to medical researchers at LaTrobe University, Victoria, for a sexual health research study which involved insensitive data collection from third parties.
“This case illustrates the importance of human research ethics committees upholding ethical and legal privacy standards. It also raises questions about the need for an independent oversight body in cases where researchers run amok,” said BBA judge Dr Roger Magnusson.
Dishonourable mention: South Australian Health Department
South Australian Health Department for careless handling of childrens mental health records.
See http://www.saliberal.org.au/news/news_item.asp?NewsID=4249 [link dead - 2009]
3. Most Invasive Technology
– for a technology that is particularly privacy invasive:
Winner: NSW Department of Health, for Health-e-Link
The Most Invasive Technology award went to the NSW Department of Health for introducing the electronic health record system Health-e-Link with only an opt-out for patients, overturning by Regulation the very clear opt-in requirement of the Health Privacy Law. The initial trials are with children and the elderly – the least likely to be in a position to object.
Dr Magnusson commented: “The failure to allow partitioning of sensitive health information, the lack of controls on authorized users, and failure to pilot both opt-in as well as opt-out systems could threaten public trust in what could be an immensely valuable tool for improving both individual and population health.”
See http://www.privacy.org.au/Campaigns/E_Health_Record/HealthElink.html for background,
4. People’s Choice Award
– for the individual or organisation most frequently nominated by the public:
Winner: Joe Hockey, Minister for Human Services, for the ‘Access Card’ – a national ID card in disguise
The People’s Choice award for 2006 went to Joe Hockey, federal Minister for Human Services, for the so-called ‘Access Card’– a national ID card in disguise, for his refusal to release the privacy impact assessment on the Card, and for his rejection of key recommendations of his own Consumer and Privacy Task Force.
BBA judge Dean Wilson felt this well-deserved for the: “relentless campaign of disinformation and doublespeak surrounding the Access Card project.”
Runner-up: NSW Department of Health, for Health-e-Link
The NSW government’s HealtheLink project – already winner of the Most Invasive Technology award, was also runner up for People’s Choice. See above.
1. Best Privacy Guardian
– for a meritorious act of privacy protection or defence:
Winner: Lex Lasry QC and other lawyers for refusing personal security clearances by ASIO
The judges unanimously awarded the 2006 ‘Smith’ for Best Privacy Guardian to barrister Lex Lasry QC and other defence lawyers for refusing to submit to stringent personal security clearances by ASIO when representing terrorist suspects as demanded by the Federal Attorney-General's department.
BBA judge Dean Wilson applauded the lawyers “for a courageous stand against the wave of privacy corrosive legislation that has been enacted in the name of fighting terrorism.”
Runner-up: Australian Communications and Media Authority, for Spam Act prosecution
Runner up as Best Privacy Guardian was the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), for the successful prosecution of the company Clarity 1 under the Spam Act 2003, with fines of $5.5 million.
“Spam is the public littering of the digital age. Enforcing privacy laws gives them teeth and strengthens social norms around privacy. Full marks to the ACMA.” said BBA judge Roger Magnusson
Honourable mention: Brent Carey, Senior Privacy Adviser in the Victorian Department of Justice
An honourable mention went to Brent Carey, Senior Privacy Adviser in the Victorian Department of Justice, and whole-of-government Privacy Coordinator, who was nominated by several of the Victorian public servants he has trained and assisted for enthusiasm and dedication ‘above and beyond the call of duty’.
See http://www.justice.vic.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/DOJ+Internet/resources/file/eb98040114e5f84/Department_of_Justice_Information_Privacy_Policy_2006.pdf (most of Brent’s work is not publicly visible)
Judges for the 2006 Big Brother Awards were:
- Laura Sigal, Acting Director and Principal Solicitor, Communications Law Centre
- Dean Wilson, Criminologist, Monash University, Melbourne
- Dr Roger Magnusson, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Sydney About the Awards