With all this terror talk and clandestine government activity you can
almost hear the collective ruffling of pages as everyone
goes back through their copies of Nineteen Eighty-Four, with intent to making some witty Orwellian reference some time in the near future.

And if the terror raids have given the public the opportunity to delve
back into Orwell’s back catalogue, then last night provided the perfect
timing for the Australian Privacy Foundation to announce the winners of
their annual Orwell awards, recognising the Australia’s biggest privacy
intruders.

Telstra and the NSW Government were the
big winners on the night, with Telstra taking out the Greatest
Corporate Invader for their reported blatant disregard for
employee privacy, and the NSW Government getting the Lifetime Menace
Award for failing to appoint a replacement Privacy Commissioner for the
past two and a half years.

According to Ninemsn, Telstra responded by saying that their privacy
policy was “lawful, transparent and no different to many other large
employers who
from time to time are required to look into employee misconduct if, for
example, the law has been breached.”

Other winners (you can check out the full list here) included Julian
McGauran who got the Worst Public Agency or Official Award for
revealing medical information about a woman’s abortion, and Amanda
Vanstone, with the Boot in Mouth Award for the year’s best quote after she said
that if all Australians had ID cards then the Cornelia Rau mix up
would never have happened.

To us cynics at Crikey, the timing does seem suspiciously aimed to get
maximum impact for the awards. “Yes, we’ve orchestrated the whole raids
and had been planning them for months,” Vice-Chair of the foundation
David Vaile told Crikey this morning. But on a more serious note, he conceded
that if you want to discuss a serious issue like privacy, then now,
when there’s this terror “carnival going on,” is probably the worst
time possible.

Maybe that’s why not many in the Australian press have touched it.