Monday, April 25, 2005

Big Brother Awards

Privacy International announces their four US Big Brother Awards for 2005 and I disagree with 3 of them.

Worst Corporate Invader
- Acxiom (for a tradition of data brokering)
- Accenture (for its Government projects)
- Response Unlimited (for trying to sell the list of donors to Schiavo's parents')

The judges selected Accenture for the award. Citing concerned members of the House of Representatives, who raised the fact that the largest contract issued by the Department of Homeland Security was being issued to a company based in Bermuda, the judges felt that Accenture was worthy of the award. The judges were particularly concerned with the plans for the US-VISIT program, including the use of additional biometrics, profiling, and the development of digital dossiers.

This reads like a Kennedy Supreme Court judgment - the reasoning doesn't remotely support the conclusions. I should declare an interest - I know and respct Accenture. It does use human wave development & its projects take forever. But, unlike it's competitors, it usually delivers systems that work.

What's the relevance of it being registered in Bermuda? Accenture operates worldwide, and if that's where it chooses to register, so what? And what has US-VISIT got to do with Accenture - they are just building it to the DHS specification.

So, bad call.

Most Invasive Proposal or Project
- US-VISIT (mass fingerprinting and face-scanning program of all visitors to the U.S.)
- U.S. Passport with RFID (placing a transmitter chip in all new U.S. passports, to be read by anyone, anywhere, from a distance)
- Secure Flight (system to compare all travelers with the terrorist watch)
- Brittan Elementary School (RFID tagging of students)
- Standardized Drivers Licenses (de facto national ID scheme)

The judges chose Brittan Elementary School. A really bad call. It only effects a few kids. US-VISIT is wrecking US alliances for zero increase in US security. The new US Passport specification reads like it was written by Al Queda. Either would qualify.

Worst Public Department
- The Federal Trade Commission (for repeated failures to stand up for privacy rights)
- Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics (for proposing a national database of all students)
- The Department of State (for continual use of diplomacy to promote bad policy abroad, i.e. policy laundering, such as biometric passports)

They chose the Department of Education - another bad call. It effects 15 million students, sounds pretty Orwellian. But the US insistence on worldwide introduction of biometric will increase the powers of all states, many of them tyrannies, over their citizens - that's 6 Billion people being tracked, courtesy Uncle Sam. Even the awful EU thinks it's too controlling!

Lifetime Menace Award

Went to Choicepoint, the purloiner and purveyor of personal information to Identity Thieves. This one I agree with - take a look at Marc Rotenberg of EPIC's testimony to the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection. Just don't read it just before you go to bed...

Pity about the others.