Thursday 30 March 2023

EU phone plans and security service monitoring win Big Brother awards

Photo: Reinoud van Leeuwen

European commissioner Ylva Johansson and Dutch home affairs minister Hanke Bruins Slot are the winners of this year’s Big Brother awards, presented by digital privacy campaign group Bits of Freedom.

Johansson was given the public award for her proposal to allow technology companies to check every phone in the EU as part of the campaign against child pornography. The suggestion is, BoF said, ‘perhaps the biggest threat to confidential internet communications at the moment’.

Hanke Bruins Slot was given the jury prize for her plan to water down the supervision of mass hacking by the security services AIVD and MIVD.

‘All the nominations were for very serious breaches of privacy or plans to do so, but one stands out above the rest because of the fundamental problem it exposes,’ the jury report stated. The plan, BoF said, ‘facilitates the unfettered data hunger of the secret services and breaks up the regulation of these services.’

Bruins Slot, who unlike previous ministers did not accept the award in person, introduced legislation at the end of last year which would water down the regulation of hacking operations by the intelligence services.

Currently they have to be cleared in advance by a review committee, but the minister is planning to allow this to take place retroactively. One member of the committee has already resigned, saying the plans were going too far.

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