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Swiss companies razzed for bad data management

postfinance atm
PostFinance: safe ATMs, but annoying voice-recogntion software, the Big Brother Awards reckon. Keystone / Georgios Kefalas

The “Big Brother Awards” for excellence in how not to manage client data have been announced, with several prominent Swiss institutions winning the uncoveted prizes.

Like the Razzies for data management, the Big Brother AwardsExternal link distinguish organisations and institutions performing particularly badly in areas of data protection.

In Zurich on Thursday, where the Swiss editions of the awards were announced for the 11th time – and the first time after a 10-year pause – several well-known Swiss companies were tagged.

In the “public” category, Postfinance took the honours for the vocal recognition software it has used to identify its 2.9 million clients since September 2018. Awards organisers said that the opt-out rather than opt-in nature of the software, the lack of information for customers, and the questionable role of Israeli software provider Nice were particularly worthy of mention.

More headaches for state bodies

A Zurich cantonal court took first place in the “state” prize: it authorised police to use snooping software to track the computers and telephones of suspects “in the absence of indisputable legal evidence”, Big Brother Awards said.

Finally, the Federal Office or Public Health (FOPH) came out on top in the “public-private partnership” category, for using e-dossiers deemed not safe enough to manage patient data.

“The centralised and uncrypted end-to-end architecture [of the e-dossier system] risks ending in catastrophe,” the awards organisers wrote. They also recommended that patients should be consulted about the digitalisation of their data, something that should remain “optional”.

The prizes are organised by the Chaos Computer Club, the Digital Society organisation, and the Pretty Easy Privacy foundation.

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