ENDitorial: Finnish Big Brother Awards on Effi's 10th birthday
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Deutsch: ENDitorial: Finnische Big Brother Awards zu EFFis 10. Geburtstag
EDRi member Electronic Frontier Finland (Effi) organized the seventh Big Brother Awards (BBA) in Finland on 11 September 2011 as part of the celebration events of Effi's tenth birthday.
Electronic Frontier Finland - Effi - was founded in 2001, a few days before the 9/11 attack, by people who were concerned about freedom of expression and information getting trampled by commercial interests, abuse of copyright, and DRM techniques. In ten years Effi has grown into an organization of nearly 2000 members. Lawmakers and media ask for Effi's opinion in matters of Internet and information society; citizens whose digital rights are violated by government or companies turn to Effi for advise.
Before the BBA ceremony, Effi held a seminar chaired by president Timo Karjalainen, viewing the history and future of digital rights. Two ex-presidents of Effi, Ville Oksanen and Tapani Tarvainen, talked about Effi's challenges and victories in the past. For example, in 2003, Effi managed to prevent some freedom of speech restrictions for professional media from being expanded to private websites. Effi also got Finnish MEPs to cooperate in turning down the software patent directive.
Despite Effi's efforts, some bad laws have been passed. The web censorship law - or the "Law about measures to prevent spreading child pornography" in Newspeak - that authorizes the Police to keep a secret blacklist of urls to be blocked came into effect in 2008. Matti Nikki (the Winston Smith awardee of 2010) found out that most of the urls had nothing to do with child abuse, and wrote this on his website. Soon Nikki's website was on the blacklist! After three years of fighting, the Supreme administrative court finally ordered the police to remove his site from the blacklist. Today, most operators do not block sites according to the list and some offer blocking optionally, so the law is practically useless.
In the seminar, two speakers viewed Effi "by outsider's eyes". Network expert Mikko Kenttälä noted how protecting networks from abuse might raise privacy issues. He recommended that Effi take more actions like radio campaigns for a wide audience in addition to talking to politicians. Writer and game designer Ville Vuorela told he regularly got involved in conversations with people who think Effi is a bunch of pirates wanting to rob artists their work for free, or want to spread child pornography. Ville usually manages to correct these misunderstandings and make people see why Effi represents the good and sensible view against the evils of the world.
Erka Koivunen, head of CERT-FI team in Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority, talked about his work: promoting security in the information society by preventing, observing, and solving information security incidents and disseminating information on threats to information security.
The final talk before the BBA ceremony was given by Internet researcher Mikko Särelä about anonymous communication. Recently, some authoritative people including the Minister for Foreign Affairs have voiced opinions that anonymous writing on Internet should be prohibited because it is usually racist or otherwise offensive. Mikko emphasised the importance of anonymity in contexts like Alcoholics Anonymous, or teenagers insecure about their sexual orientations seeking for peer support. The cure for offensive talk on newspaper websites is coherent moderation, not control of the whole Internet.
In the BBA, the public sector category had several strong competitors, like VTT Technical Research Center of Finland, which generously lets its scientists keep their jobs as long as they don't discuss their research in public without permission. The tight game was won by the Ministry of Internal affairs, which bravely fought against crime by letting the police break into citizens' computers and disable security mechanisms.
The business category winner is Google, which recorded not only Street Views but also wireless Internet traffic, "by accident". This performance was rated even higher than that of Nokia Siemens Network, whose mobile tracking system has helped dictators in Iran and Bahrain.
The winner of the individual category is Tuija Brax, former Minister of Justice. Her achievements include a law that enables cutting off the Internet connection for mere suspicion of infringing copyright - no need to bother courts of law.
Special Life Work Award went to Jouni Laiho, a civil servant who creatively combined the powers Montesquieu separated.
Effi also gave Winston Smith Prizes to two civil servants who have fought against the Big Brother. Sami Kiriakos wrote a memo that led to decriminalisation of using open WLANs; Tomi Voutilainen has publicly defended e-mail privacy and criticized spending taxpayers' money on useless control mechanisms. A special 19.84 euro international prize was given to James Love, director of KEI.
Photos and comments from the event (only in Finnish)
Press release: Finnish Big Brother Awards 2011 (14.09.2011)
(Contribution by Virpi Kauko, EDRi-member Effi)