Cover of the book by George Orwell

DUO nominated for the Big Brother Award

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The Education Executive Agency (DUO) has been nominated for the Big Brother Award from the Bits of Freedom foundation. The student loan provider would not take the privacy of students and former students very seriously.

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The annual prize has been created to expose the privacy violations of companies and organisations. This year is the fifteenth time that the prize has been awarded.

The jury report speaks of "tunnel vision and data hunger" at DUO, which "loses sight of the rights of students and former students" time and again.

Tracking software
DUO has used tracking software in e-mails to students, and therefore violated the rules. The student loan provider was able to see if someone had received and read its message. The IP address of the computer was also registered. DUO stopped when de Volkskrant asked questions about this.

Furthermore, the jury thinks it is strange that DUO wanted to cooperate in sharing study debts with mortgage providers. In addition, according to the jury, DUO goes rather far to collect study debts: for example, defaulters cannot extend their Dutch passport abroad.

In addition to DUO, NWO department ZonMW has also been nominated for funding research into big data on birth and youth care. The risks to the privacy of families and children have not been sufficiently assessed, the jury believes.

Welfare fraud
The third nominated (and expected winner) is the Systeem Risico Indicatie (SyRI), or System Risk Indication, a digital surveillance system "that links sensitive data from citizens to detect welfare fraud in an unfocused and indefinite manner," according to the jury.

One of the jury members is Alex Tess Rutten, chair of the Dutch Student Union. DUO cannot respond to the nomination yet, a spokesperson said.

The Bits of Freedom foundation is committed to internet freedom. The name of the annual prize is derived from the novel 1984 by George Orwell about a totalitarian society whose leader (Big Brother) keeps an eye on everyone by using cameras.

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