Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Defence ministry, labour office get Czech mock awards

ČTK |
17 February 2017

Prague, Feb 16 (CTK) - The Czech Defence Ministry, the Home Credit provider of non-banking loans and the Labour Office received the Big Brother mock awards for violating people's privacy last year, the contest's organiser, the Iuridicum Remedium NGO (IuRe), announced on Thursday.

The NGO's jury presented the awards for the 12th time in a row to highlight the cases of unacceptable infringements of citizens' privacy by private firms and public offices.

The Defence Ministry won the mock prize for its draft amendment to the law on the Military Intelligence Service (VZ) that would make the VZ responsible for cyber defence, and consequently enable it to place "black boxes" for wiretapping on Internet lines as well as to block and change the Czech Internet operation.

VZ chief Jan Beroun told reporters that the intelligence officer would only monitor the web operation, but they would still need a court consent to reading the data content.

The Chamber of Deputies security committee recommended in early February that the amendment be passed with a change proposed by the government. It explicitly bans the interference in the Internet content and presumes the establishment of the advisory committee for cyber security and defence.

The ministry says the IuRe NGO did not understand the principle of the amendment. "This is not the ministry's independent activity, but a step that follows up the government's decision," CTK spokesman Jan Pejsek said.

The aim of the legislation is not to monitor the individuals' e-mails, but to secure the protection of strategic information systems. Besides, the amendment provides for a several-phase control mechanism, Pejsek added.

Home Credit credit was declared "Big Brother" in the category of firms. According to the jury, the firm decided to check credit applicants through a special application analysing the clients' mobile phone content. If if finds contacts to the persons who did not repay loans in the past, the applicant for a loan might be rejected.

The Labour Office has become "a long-term snoopy" since it demands complete bank account statements from applicants for some welfare benefits, the NGO says, adding that this duty is not embedded in law.

Both Home Credit and the Labour Office raised objections to the criticism.

Home Credit calls the NGO's information imprecise. It says it is not developing the criticised function of the application and that it will not be its part. "Consequently, we have received the award for something that we do not and will not have," Home Credit spokeswoman Zuzana Bienvenu said.

The Labour Office spokeswoman Katerina Berankova said the office was obliged to pay welfare benefits from the state budget efficiently, purposefully and economically. The property and social situation of the applicants influence their right to and level of the benefits and the office proceeds in harmony with law in their assessment, she added.

The Big Brother statement award went to Miroslav Lukes, Mastercard general director for the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria.

"Everyone leaves digital footprints behind and the amount of these data will be rising. This is a simple fact and nothing can be done with it," Lukes said in an interview with the Penize.cz server.

The town of Vsetin, south Moravia, won the positive Edward Snowden award for those contributing to the privacy protection and transparency since it was informing inhabitants about the location of cameras of the municipal video surveillance system.

The Big Brother contest, inspired by the legacy of George Orwell's famous dystopian novel 1984, took place for the first time in Britain in 1998. In the Czech Republic, it has been organised since 2005.

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