On January 28, 2009, Access to Information Programme (AIP) and Internet Society Bulgaria presented the Big Brother anti-awards. The ceremony was held at the National Presscenter of the Bulgarian News Agency. 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 fourth time. The last ceremony was held in 2008. The awardees of the Big Brother Award are selected by a jury. The 2009 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
- Krasimir Dimitrov - Member of the the Data Protection Commission
- Fany Davidova - Lawyer at AIP
- Desi Pefeva - Project Manager, Internet Society Bulgaria
The jury decided that one Bulgarian institution and one private company have deserved a special place among those who were nominated for violating the right of privacy for the past year.
The Ministry of Interior was presented with the Big Brother Award for its diverse multipolar activitieswhich violate dthe right of privacy. More precisely:
- for drafting and adopting, together with the State Agency of Information Technologies and Communication, Regulation № 40 as of 2008, which binds the mobile operators and internet providers to retain data on electronic messages;
- for sending an official letter to an Internet media, asking for the IP addresses of participants in the forum of the media;
- for recording the personal data of citizenst who took part in the demonstration protests in front of the parliament on January 15, 2009.
The CEZ Distribution Bulgaria JSC was recognized as the private company which has violated the right of privacy during 2008 the most.
The company illegally requires that its clients provide copies of their property ownership documents if they want to use the services of the company. CEZ Distribution is the only power distribution company in the North-west region of Bulgaria, including the capital Sofia. Furthermore, despite of a decision of the Data Protection Commission against such practices, the company continues to require these documents from its clients.
Besides the two recognized, among the nominated for the Big Brother Award were the State Agency on Information Technologies and Communication, the State Agency for National Security, the Social Support Agency, Metro Cash and Carry Bulgaria, the Chain store 2be, the United Bulgarian Bank.
January 28, on which the 2009 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.