US fingerprinting plan earns Big Brother's wrath

Privacy International has named this year's winners of its Big Brother awards, and the US VISIT scheme has been labelled as a Lifetime Menace

A scheme that forces all visitors to America to be fingerprinted upon arrival has won this year's Lifetime Menace award from Privacy International.

The US VISIT scheme has been honoured in this way, according to PI, because of the "almost total silence" in the US over this programme.

"The scheme is offensive and invasive, and has been undertaken with little or no debate or scrutiny," claimed PI.

"Nor has the requirement taken any account of the 'special relationship' between the UK and the US. The UK government has been silent about the programme and has capitulated every step of the way," the civil rights group added.

The Right Honourable Charles Clarke, Britain's secretary of state for education and skills, was the runner-up for the Lifetime Menace award. Previous winners include Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who was recognised during his time as Home Secretary.

The prize of Worst Public Servant went to the Right Honourable Margaret Hodge, minister of state for children, for her involvement in the Children Bill, which includes tracking measures.

The upgrade of the NHS IT system was awarded the title of Most Appalling Project. In PI's view, the scheme will computerise all patient records in a way that is "both insecure and dangerous to patient privacy". Vodafone's move to block access to adult Web sites over its data network was a runner-up in this category.

The awards were announced on Wednesday evening at an event in London. They are titled the Big Brother awards, after George Orwell's visionary novel 1984.

Full list of winners and runners-up:

Worst Public Servant
Winner: The Right Honourable Margaret Hodge
Runners-up: Katherine Courtney, director, identity cards programme, Home Office, and Stephen Harrison, head, identity card policy unit, Home Office.

Most Invasive Company
Winner: British Gas
Runners-up: Lloyds TSB, FollowUS.

Most Appalling Project
Winner: The NHS National Programme for IT
Runners-up: Vodafone, The Safe Harbour Agreement

Most Heinous Government Organisation
Winner: The Office of National Statistics
Runner-up: The Department for Transport

Lifetime Menace
Winner: The US VISIT Programme
Runner-up: The Right Honourable Charles Clarke MP

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