'Big Brother Awards' highlight privacy complaints
April 12, 1999
by Tom Diederich
(IDG) -- The first annual "Orwell Awards" bestowed a dubious distinction upon Intel Corp., computer database marketer Elensys Inc. and a slew of other companies, agencies and government officials by privacy advocates seeking to raise awareness of the issue.
The event, presented by the London-based human rights group Privacy International, was held to recognize "the government and private sector organizations which have done the most to invade personal privacy in the United States."
"Surveillance over our private lives has reached a dangerous new level," Simon Davies, Privacy International's director, said in a statement.
Wednesday's "Big Brother Awards" ceremony coincided with the 50th anniversary of the publication of George Orwell's classic Nineteen Eighty-Four. The judges consisted of lawyers, academics, consultants, journalists and civil rights activists who shifted through hundreds of nominations from the public, according to the statement.
Intel was selected for its controversial Pentium III, which critics have sought to block from distribution because an identifying serial number on the chip can be used to track computers.
An Intel spokesman said the feature was designed to increase security for e-commerce and isn't meant to invade privacy rights. Either PC makers or users can switch off the feature, the spokesman said.
"The tireless efforts of Undersecretary of Commerce David Aaron and former White House adviser Ira Magaziner in promoting crypto restrictions and opposing privacy laws has also been noteworthy," Privacy International said.
Magaziner told Computerworld he disagreed with the group's charge. "I can't speak for David, but I've opposed the crypto restrictions that the U.S. government has put on -- and I've done that publicly,'' Magaziner said. "I was also responsible in part for some of the loosening of those restrictions, so that's just flat-out wrong."
The Clinton administration has resisted completely lifting restrictions on exporting strong cryptography, fearing it could get in the hands of international terrorist and criminal rings, thwarting law enforcement efforts.
The administration also says it favors industry self-regulation on the Internet, so that government rules don't choke off the fast-growing and increasingly important electronic economy.
"We've supported the formation of the online privacy alliance and other means of industry self-regulation on privacy," Magaziner noted. "Just to say you're simply going to pass a law doesn't mean you're solving the problem," he added. "I feel pretty good about my record in trying to protect privacy."
Woburn, Mass.-based Elensys, meanwhile, received an Orwell for "secretly collecting the pharmacy records of millions of patients' records from 15,000 pharmacies nationwide." Elensys officials couldn't be reached for comment.
SEC database exposes Social Security numbers
RELATED IDG.net STORIES:
Can the Net really self-regulate?
Big Brother Awards
|Back to the top||
© 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.|
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.