On January 28, 2008, at 11 am, Access to Information Programme (AIP) and Internet Society Bulgaria presented the Big Brother anti-awards. The ceremony was held at the Center for Culture and
Debate The Red House. The awards are given to government institutions, private companies, or individuals, who have done the most to invade personal privacy. The Big Brother Award was founded by Privacy International - a human rights group working for the protection of privacy. PI maintains the Big Brother Awards International Site. The name of the award is inspired by the famous anti-utopian novel by George Orwell. The phrase "Big Brother is watching you" refers to invasive surveillance, limiting the personal freedom.
The Big Brother Awards ceremony is taking place in Bulgaria for the third time. The last ceremony was held in 2005. The awardees of the Big Brother Award are selected by a jury. The 2008 Big Brother Awards jury has the following members:
- Alexander Kashumov - Head of AIP legal team
- Gergana Jouleva, PhD - Executive Director of AIP
- Georgi Lozanov - Ass. Professor at the Journalism Department at the Sofia University
- Zoya Dimitrova - Journalist, expert at the Monitor daily newspaper
- Krasimir Dimitrov - Member of the the Data Protection Commission
- Fany Davidova - Lawyer at AIP
- Julia Velkova - Project Manager, Internet Society Bulgaria
The jury decided that two Bulgarian institutions have deserved a special place among those who were nominated for violating the right of privacy.
The Ministry of Interior was recognized with the Big Brother Award for publishing the details from the international passports and the criminal records of two British journalists from BBC who was working on the production of a documentary on children trafficking in Bulgaria. The personal information of the two journalists was published on the MoI website and is still available there.
The Council of Ministers of Bulgaria was recognized with a Dishonorary Diploma for publishing in their decision, promulgated in the “State Gazette” as of October 2007, the names, details of ID cards (e.g. height, color of eyes) and permanent address of the owners whose real estate property was alienated for the purpose of expanding the ring-road of Sofia. The published decision also contained information on the sizes of the property and amount of money the Cabinet was to pay the owners. Tha latter information, however, is to be provided only to the owner or his/her heirs since they might want to appeal the decision regarding the financial compensation offered for the property.
The Council of Ministers was awarded for its continuous violation of the protection of personal data by publishing them without making efforts to comply with the provisions of the Personal Data Protection Act, adopted in 2002 in Bulgaria.
Among the nominations for the Big Brother Awards were those of the Registry Agency, the Traffic Police-Sofia, and the Data Protection Commission itself.
January 28, on which the 2008 Big Brother Awards Ceremony was held in Bulgaria, coincides with the European Data Protection Day. The date marks the adoption of Convention 108 of the Council of Europe for the protection of individuals with regard to automatic processing of personal data.
Though none of the awarded institutions were represented, the event received wide media coverage.
Pictures from the event are accessible here.
Information about Big Brother Awards in Bulgaria can also be found at: http://bg.bigbrotherawards.org