Czech NGO awards mock 'Big Brother' prize to snoopers of the year

The awards are intended for companies, administrative offices, and individuals who non-transparently invade people's privacy.

Expats.cz Staff ČTK

Written by Expats.cz StaffČTK Published on 24.03.2023 11:07:00 (updated on 24.03.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

Tech giant Microsoft, Czech internet portal Seznam.cz, Labor Minister Marian Jurečka, and the national Supreme Administrative Court all won the Czech mock “Big Brother” awards for being snoopers of the year. 

The non-governmental watchdog that organizes the awards, Iuridicum Remedium, focuses on entities that wrongfully monitor, collect, and store people's data without due need.

Microsoft the worst offender

Microsoft was the “biggest long-term snooper," according to this year's awards. This is due to the U.S. company’s non-transparent and large collection of its users’ data, as well as questionable online security during video calls with Microsoft products.

The organizers also criticized Microsoft for offering software that helped monitor (according to some, “spy on”) employees’ online activity. According to the director of the watchdog Jan Vobořil, the tech firm has been snooping on the contents of people’s Microsoft-based emails and documents.

In its defense, Microsoft has responded by saying that all of its products meet strict EU laws on data protection, and that it has recently made changes that improve online confidentiality.

Other big names also guilty

Seznam.cz, one of the most-visited websites in Czechia, won the mock award for snooping due to its monitoring of users’ online activities. It was accused of deliberately confusing people by requiring them to manually opt out of data being collected on users even after signing out of their e-mail accounts. Currently, Seznam.cz monitors data on people’s online activities for targeted-advertising reasons even if being signed out.

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In response, Seznam.cz spokesperson Aneta Kapuciánová stated that this is a "common market standard" that the company introduced roughly two years ago, and does not violate any laws.

The Supreme Administrative Court received also received a snooping award for releasing sensitive data about people’s cars. Last summer, the court provided a Czech financial office data from road cameras – accoring to Vobořil, this was an “invasion of privacy” and opens space “for further big interventions into the privacy of citizens.”

Finally, Jurečka received his mock prize for his proposal to interconnect the online networks of schools and labor offices, which would enable the automatic halting of welfare benefits to parents whose children do not attend school. According to Iuridicum Remedium, a decision as sensitive as this should not be made automatically without establishing the reasons for a child’s absence.

Jurečka – who is currently under fire for offering the former head of the Czech Labor Office money to resign – defended his idea by saying that it is the state’s role to control school attendance and that digitization would make this easier.

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