Facebook takes main Big Brother award in Czech Republic

Illustrative photo: Gerd Altmann / Pixabay

The Czech Big Brother awards, recognizing the biggest privacy intruders of 2018, have gone to Facebook, the Czech Financial Administration and the company iRobot, producing intelligent vacuum cleaners. In the Czech Republic the awards have been presented since 2005 by the Iuridicum remedium civic association.

Illustrative photo: Gerd Altmann / Pixabay
Named after George Orwell’s novel 1984, the Big Brother Awards were originally established in London in 1998 by Privacy International. Since then, a growing number of human rights groups across the world present them annually to government agencies, private companies and individuals who violate people's privacy or disclose people's personal data to third parties.

The Czech Big Brother Awards are granted in four categories by a jury comprising of experts on new technologies, lawyers, human rights defenders and journalists, who select the winners out of nominations sent in by the general public.

The 2018 award for the biggest privacy intruder in the long-term perspective went to Facebook for large-scale data leaks. In the private sector, the iRobot company was awarded for its vacuum cleaner collecting spatial data to map users’ homes.

The award for the most appalling quote on a privacy-related topic went to Petr Stuchlík, the ANO party candidate for Prague mayor, for promoting the introduction of CCTV in schools. And finally, the Financial Administration in Olomouc was named the biggest administrative privacy intruder for asking newly-wed couples to provide information about their wedding reception expenses to make sure they hadn’t violated the law on electronic cash registers. Lawyer Jan Vobořil of Iuridicum Remedium:

“The Financial Administration asked the general register office to provide them with data about weddings and they subsequently contacted all the newly-wed couples with the request for information, including those who held their wedding reception at home.

Jan Vobořil,  photo: Markéta Kachlíková
“It is like a fishing method, in which you throw a net and wait to see who gets caught in it. At that rate the administration could soon demand any kind of information from anyone.”

Among this year’s nominees were companies using chip payments methods followed by collecting clients’ data at music festivals or the People’s Republic of China for using algorithms and big data to select people for re-education. Jan Vobořil again:

“China has been nominated regularly in recent years. For us, China is a dystopic version of what could await us in the future if we don’t value and protect our rights, including the right to privacy. It is developing sophisticated camera methods and creating large databases of all its citizens, so it is an interesting example of where we could get.”

In addition to recognizing the biggest privacy intruders, Iuridicum Remedium also grants a positive award, named after Edward Snowden that goes to people or projects defending privacy issues.

This year it was granted to the European Consumer organisation BEUC and its Czech member dTest for their coordinated enforcement action against Google for using location data, which reveals comprehensive information about the movement of mobile phones and their users.