Aussie pollies anointed in Orwellian awards

Big Brother Awards go to privacy invaders

The NSW Department of Health and the Swift financial transaction network have both received gongs at the 2006 Australian Big Brother Awards, dubbed "The Orwells".

Swift, (society for worldwide interbank financial telecommunication) along with Australian banks, won the award for being the Greatest Corporate Invader of Privacy, with the NSW Department of Health winning the gong for Most Invasive Technology for the electronic health record system.

The Swift network processes international fund transfers in Australia for the Commonwealth Bank, Wetspac and ANZ.

Federal Justice Minister Chris Ellison won the award for the worst Public Agency or Official. The People's Choice Award went to former Human Services minister Joe Hockey for the Australian Access card.

The Big Brother Awards are hosted by the Australian Privacy Foundation for inappropriate breaches of personal privacy in both the public and private sector.

Judges for the 2006 Big Brother Awards included Laura Sigal, acting director and principal solicitor of the Communications Law Centre, Dean Wilson, criminologist for Monash University, Melbourne and Dr Roger Magnusson, associate professor of the Faculty of Law at the University of Sydney.

In regard to the electronic health record system, Dr Magnusson said some failures of the system could threaten public trust in the system improving an individual's health.

"The failure to allow partitioning of sensitive health information, the lack of controls on authorized users, and failure to pilot both opt-in as well as opt-out systems could threaten public trust in what could be an immensely valuable tool for improving both individual and population health," Magnusson said.

The People's Choice award was given to former Human Services minister Joe Hockey for the Australian Access Card, for the refusal to release the official privacy impact assessment, as well as rejections made to recommendations from the Consumer and Privacy Task Force.

Judge Dean Wilson said the entire Access Card project had been a "relentless campaign of disinformation and doublespeak."

The runner-up award for Best Privacy Guardian went to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) for prosecution of company Clarity 1 under the 2003 Spam Act (October 2006) where the company was fined a total of $5.5 million. Clarity was found guilty of sending more than 280 million unsolicited e-mails.

Dr Magnusson gave full marks to the ACMA, adding enforcing privacy laws gives the Spam Act teeth and strengthens the social norms around privacy.

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More about ACTANZ Banking GroupBrother International (Aust)Commonwealth Bank of AustraliaCommunications Law CentreDepartment of HealthMonash UniversityMonash UniversityNSW Department of HealthNSW Department of HealthPrivacy FoundationUniversity of SydneyUniversity of Sydney

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