The winners of the Big Brother Awards 2004


From far more than a hundred filed and audited cases, the jury assembled a grand official list of nominations 2004. As the cases are of different character and dimensions, the nominations resulted from following diverse criteria. Besides the specific perfidy or banality of the case, the negative effects that already impacted on the community presents a strong criterion. In other cases, the social potential of damage following a technical application or legislation prompted the nomination of the person in charge. This year, the term 'Big Brother' was further extended to cheeky paternalism. Independent of the nominated cases' position within clear legal boundaries or a legally diffused area - none of the mentioned people and firms are accused of a criminal act. Out of the preselection, the jurors have voted one winner per category.

As usual, the winners and the appointed have the possibility to present their view of the case in a written statement to All statements received are published in full text on this website.

The Categories

> Business and Finances
> Politics
> Authorities and Administration
> Communication and Marketing
> Lifetime Achievement
> People's Choice

The Jury

> Doris Kaiserreiner, q/uintessenz
> Dr. Oliver Koch, Lawyer
> Albert Koellner, VIBE!AT
> Andy Mueller-Maguhn, CCC
> Bernd Petrovitsch, FFS


> Disco WON, Graz

The new amusement temple 'World of Nightlife' in Graz is nominated for their unconsidered introduction of surveillance technologies into the everyday life of leisure. Nearly a dozen inconspicuously mounted webcams stream live into the net. Meanwhile, the visitor is unaware of this broadcasting.

The management reveals that this is not a coincidence, but policy: the exposure to technologies from high-security-zones such as control of fingerprints. Although working reliable in security tracts, the deployed biometrics application only produced an error rate in the real night life. Due to long queues, the system was temporarily decommissioned. The organisers are still convinced that it will work in a second try, when there is enough time to "train" the public to use the correct finger correctly.


> EU- Ministers of Justice and of the Interior from Sweden, France, Ireland, England

In their proposal for a Framework Decision regarding "Data Retention", the Ministers of Justice and of the Interior from the EU member countries Sweden, France, Ireland and England demand a preemptive storage of all communication data (telephone, email, internet, P2P, ICQ, etc.) for at least three years. This stands in direct contradiction to the EU Directive and national laws for the protection of data privacy. These would be de facto nullified if this Directive would be enforced.


> Viennese public health officers

Representing all the other public health officers that give up their duty to treat medical records confidentially and pass the personal data of their patients to the public authorities without any considerations.

A particularly obvious excess was the case of Helmut R. in February 2004. Because he had applied for fiscal alleviations after an operation, a freeze was imposed on his driving licence.

The examinining public health officer had circulated information of the patient's records due to the threat to road traffic. Justification: "slight hypertension". The Independant Senate of Administration Vienna lifted the ban (temporary driving licence) not because of unlawful data handling, but because "slight hypertension" alone is not a risk. The president of the Austrian medical association (OeAeK), Dr. Reiner Brettenthaler, reminds on this occasion that the legal requirement concerning confidential medical communication "as one of the most important ethical imperatives has to take priority over other thoughts as a matter of principle". It strictly mustn't "be annuled neither by the authorities' interest in information nor by any other considerations". Exceptions only apply if the threat to the general public is definitely the case and a patient is swamped with the self-responsability.


> Hutchison Austria ["3"]

for the development on the so-called "friendfinder" service by T-Mobile. The 3FriendFinder is a new feature of the 3Geo service. It enables the localisation of another "3" customer at the push of a button. Whilst older systems only worked approximately, GPS now maps the located mobile phone on the display with an accuracy of a few meters. Entirely new possibilities of leisure-control are opened up for the surveillance-minded legal guardians. Children and teenagers will hear the allegation "Why was your FriendFinder switched off all night?" increasingly.

Until now, services of the FriendFinder-type are used preferably in the following manner: One of the two spouses buys two mobile phones. The private detective activates the FriendFinder-function, turns the ring tone to silent, and places the phone into the car boot of the other spouse.
3Friendfinder Screenshots

Category LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT "Lifetime-Annoyance-Elisabeth-Gehrer-Prize ..."

This year, the hitherto existing category LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT will be renamed into "Lifetime-Annoyance-Elisabeth-Gehrer-Prize for the most sustainable approach towards the novel 1984".

If the education evidence had been already in effect at the time George Orwell was writing his novel 'Nineteeneightyfour' in the year 1948, a database of all those pupils that had finished their academic career at that time would be available until today according to the law.

The bestowal of this award is presented for the second time this year.

Category PEOPLE´S CHOICE ["Volkswahl"]

> Linz Strom GmbH, Linz

The award "People's Choice" is the only category were the jury's decision is replaced by the highest amount of votes for a specific case.

When word got around that the jury itself had placed this case with the following text on the list of nominations, a hunt began that was finally decided by the party involved.

The electric company for the city of Linz left nothing undone to move an unpleasant topic out of the media - that is to say that the powerline-technology used in Linz can produce radio interference. Radio technicians were sued for "damage of credit" because they had published their results of measurements. An accordingly high amount in dispute was set in order to intimidate. In an attempt to have an effect on media reports, a lawyer of the Linz Strom GmbH intervened in an Austrian media company where he acted as the supervisory board.


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