London. -- The British company Procurement Services International presents itself as the leading western exporter of police equipment to Indonesia. Especially for special units that have fought political dissidents in East Timor, a province annexed in 1975. According to Amnesty International, over 200,000 people out of a population of 750,000, have died since the Indonesian invasion.

PSI had the privilege to (virtually) receive on October 26 in London one of the UK Big Brother Awards, during a ceremony organized by Privacy International with the help of organizations like the Omega Foundation and Statewatch.

PSI furnishes riot control vehicles such as the Tactica, which can be adapted as a water cannon. The Indonesian government sometimes used the Tactica with a mixture of chemical irritants which has stung people's eyes and burnt their skin, according to an investigation released in June 1997 by the British TV program The World in Action. During a special inquiry about human rights abuses in East Timor, the TV crew had the great idea to organize a secret camera footage at PSI headquarters. With a special guest as a would-be client: Jose Ramos-Horta, 1996 Nobel Laureate.

The transcript of the program, obtained from Omega Foundation people, shows Nicholas Oliver, Managing Director of PSI, making this extraordinary statement -- talking to Horta, a man he evidently did not matched:

"There are claims by certain papers, claims by certain organizations that 20 or 30,000 are dead in East Timor. I don't believe that anybody is ever going to be able to come up with evidence of that. I don't believe that's the case and I've been to East Timor regularly. I've been out on police and military patrol, and special force patrol in East Timor. OK, now because there's a Westerner there, they're probably behaving themselves, but only up to a point. Frankly they've killed more people in Northern Ireland in the last ten years then they have in East Timor. The difference is that in East Timor they do it in blocks of 200, and in Northern Ireland, they do one or two a day."

Said Horta afterwards:

"Water cannons are not used in England to stop demonstrations, because it is wrong - it is immoral. Why should it be right to use them against the East Timorese or against the Indonesians? Only because East Timorese and Indonesians are of darker skin."

"If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - for ever."
George Orwell, Nineteen Eight-Four, published in 1948.

The first UK Big Brother Awards, a reminder for the book's 50th anniversary, were portrayed by gold-like sculptures of a boot on a human face. The 'name and shame' ceremony were aimed to government agencies and private companies for "their relentless attack on personal privacy".

The ceremony was held at the London School of Economics, based in Westminster district, heart of the UK's political establishment. The 'name and shame' ceremony was held in a relaxed atmosphere, where petits fours, vin rouge and a rock band formed a successful mixture. Around 200 people attended, massed in a small conference room. Video cameras were not excluded, however. Your correspondent was granted permission to take some pictures.

"Surveillance has now become an inbuilt component of every piece of information technology on the planet, we've got a long way to go to wind the clock back," told Simon Davies, PI's director and a LSE lecturer, to the BBC (Oct. 27 report). "I think these awards are the beginning of a movement".

EPIC's Dave Banisar told the Lambda he hoped to have some time one day to manage such a party in the US. He was proud to present the Big Brother Survival Kit, in which 10 international firms (from IBM to Lockheed, Inmarsat and Microsoft) were listed as the 'Big Brother Corporations'.

The academics, writers, activists and lawyers who make up Privacy International's awards panel concentrated their first awards on the UK, but plans to extend them to other countries over the next few years. PI members in the United States, France, Austria and Germany will shortly announce dates for their national awards.

States The Big Brother Survival Kit:

"Britain is now a surveillance society. Each man, woman and child appears, on average, in 300 databases, a number which increases at the rate of at least one per week. Despite the existence of data protection law, these systems are being linked through highly advances telecommunications networks. Governments and private sector organizations are striving to destroy anonymity and bring each citizen into the emerging web of surveillance. ...
"Even the smallest villages are now scrutinized by spy cameras," the report continues. "Workers are routinely monitored and subjected to a battery of psychological and physical tests. Commercial outlets constantly store transactions and develop customer profiles. Telephone calls by millions are logged and analyzed without warrant by police."

And the winners are...

> Newham Council officials were the only winners that accepted to receive a Gold-like award given by Privacy activists.
> PI activists tried to have access to the DTI offices in order to give some officials their awards - but was forced out of the building, the audience learned during the ceremony.

Privacy International also presented awards for the defenders of privacy. These "Winstons" (after Winston Smith, the hero of Nineteen Eighty Four) were given to five people and organisations :

PI is also pleased to announce a future schedule for awards. The 1999 US Big Brother Awards ceremony will be held at the 1999 Computers Freedom and Privacy Conference, 6-8 April 1998. The 1999 UK Big Brother Awards will take place in London on 18 October 1999.

J. Thorel
Lambda Bulletin
December 1998