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The other Big Brother

Privacy shame awards pan government and IWF

The final list of nominations for the Big Brother awards, hosted by Privacy International on 4 March, is now in circulation, and those nominated may be getting a little worried.

Competing for the title of Worst Public Servant are Home Secretary David Blunkett, cabinet secretary Sir Richard Wilson and Michael Cashman MEP, perhaps better known for his role as Colin in EastEnders.

Wilson, due to retire as Tony Blair's cabinet secretary in October, has also been nominated for the Lifetime Menace award, following ongoing criticism of his opposition to data protection, freedom of information and ministerial accountability.

Unfortunately no one from the Wilson camp was available for comment.

Perhaps Wilson's biggest 'crime against privacy' has been his national identification and data sharing scheme proposals — basically a national ID card, which privacy campaigners have dubbed 'the greatest ongoing threat to privacy'.

MEP Cashman has been nominated for his opposition to European controls over spam. Cashman pushed for the current opt-out system, whereby consumers must request not to receive spam mail, rather than the more consumer-friendly opt-in alternative.

"Michael did not know about the nomination and he feels it's unfair," said his spokesman. "He hasn't been invited to the ceremony and will therefore not be attending. He will be serving his constituents [on the day], so he will be at work."

Meanwhile, the supposed guardian of internet morals, the IWF (Internet Watch Foundation), is up for the Most Invasive Company award for its new plans to monitor all newsgroups.

But the IWF defended its actions. "The plans will be monitored carefully, it is not a blanket policy and innocent groups will not be affected," said the group's spokesman.

Privacy International is an independent non-government organisation comprising human rights organisations and experts from 40 different countries.

The group is funded by donations form such organisations as the Privacy Foundation and the University of New South Wales. Minimal backing is also obtained through membership fees and newsletter subscriptions.


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