Big Brother award nominees pile in

Nothing to do with hideous TV game show, thankfully


Updated The great and the good, when it comes to privacy invasion, have been "honoured" for their efforts to mess up life for the rest on us online.

Privacy International has shortlisted the UK government agencies, civil servants, companies and initiatives which have done most to invade personal privacy for its fourth annual "Big Brother" awards.

Sir Richard Wilson, the Cabinet Secretary, earns a nomination as worst civil servant "for his long standing commitment to opposing freedom of information, data protection and ministerial accountability". He's also up for a "lifetime menace award".

Home Secretary David Blunkett, for his patronage of the proposed national ID card and Michael Cashman MEP, for his opposition in the European Parliament to controls over email spam, are also up for consideration as worst public servant.

In the companies category The Countryside Alliance, for holding data on (among many other categories) sexual, political, religious, health, intelligence and lifestyle information on a vast range of individuals, is also up for a gong. The Internet Watch Foundation and Norwich Union, for "using unapproved genetic tests for potentially fatal diseases when assessing whether to offer life cover", are also in the running. But PI seems to have goofed as far as Norwich Union is concerned.

Norwich Union have been in touch with us to say that the nomination is based on the “false allegation that we ask for unapproved genetic tests to be carried out”.

It said that Norwich Union has always complied with the Association of British Insurers (ABI) Code of Practice on genetic testing and that it does not ask for a genetic test.

In May last year, the ABI issued a press release which said that “insurers will extend their existing moratorium on the use of genetic test results. For the time being, they will not ask for any genetic test results from applicants for insurance policies up to £300,000.”

Among the projects attracting the opprobrium of Privacy International is The National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS), for its proposal to archive and warehouse all email, internet and telephone call traffic records. Brickbats were also thrown at the Electoral Reform Society for the way it plans to introduce electronic voting which provides "woefully scant assessment of the substantial privacy and security threats", according to Privacy International.

The Department of Education and Skills, for creating a student tracking system, The Internet Watch Foundation and (naturally) the Home Office are nominated in the most heinous government organisation category.

If you think Privacy International has missed a worthy candidate for consideration, there's an opportunity to submit nominations.

The awards will be judged by a panel of experts, comprising lawyers, academics, consultants, journalists and civil rights activists prior to an awards ceremony at the London School of Economics on March 4.

The awards aren't all doom and gloom.

Privacy International will also present awards - Winstons - to organisations and individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the protection of privacy. The name Winston, of course, comes from the hero of George's Orwell's seminal work on totalitarianism 1984, which also gave the world the phrase "Big Brother".

You can find more details on the events and the nominations here. ®

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