The Electronic Privacy Information Center presented the 2019 International Privacy Champion Awards to Giovanni Buttarelli, European data protection supervisor, and Joe McNamee, former executive director of the European Digital Rights Initiative. Presented at the conference on Computers, Privacy, and Data Protection in Brussels, Belgium, Jan. 30, the award has been in existence since 2009, when it was first presented to Italian jurist professor Stefano Rodotà.
In accepting his award, presented by EPIC advisory board member Max Schrems, McNamee said, speaking of
former winners, “If I thought I deserved to be on a list with Stefano Rodotà, Viviane Reding and Jan Albrecht, then I wouldn’t deserve to be standing here.” McNamee went on to say that he was accepting the award on behalf of the cumulative work of those who have come before. “When I joined EDRi in 2009, I wasn’t starting from scratch. I was allowed to build with the fantastic network of the people whose identity is hidden behind this award tonight. On behalf of those people, who worked so hard in the '80s, '90s, and the past decade, I say thank you for the recognition that you’ve given to them, through me.”
McNamee also took the opportunity to call attention to what he saw as the changing landscape. He said, “We have fear being sold as strength, we have surrender being sold as pragmatism, and in the privacy environment, we see some of the most amoral, disgraceful lobbying that I’ve seen in a long time … but the community is getting bigger. On behalf of the community, on behalf of the heroes that are in audience and on the stage, thank you very much.”
Presenting the award to Buttarelli, EPIC board member Shoshana Zuboff described him as an "incredible leader," adding, "you are our guardian on the wall." She went on to say, "It is in recognition of your moral clarity and your courage, your faithfulness to humanity's greatest achievements, and your clear unwavering voice, that it is my honor to present you with this award on behalf of EPIC and indeed on behalf of all people who walk this planet."
Buttarelli dedicated the award to his children and to his staff. He said, "What I achieved in the last few years is also because of this collective exercise." He said his career has provided him with a unique privilege to understand the various viewpoints of data protection and added, "I will continue to serve data protection for the years to come. ... What is essential is to continue giving to all of you, with your contribution and cooperation, my feedback and contribution as well."
In a statement, EPIC President Marc Rotenberg said, “Giovanni Buttarelli is a beacon for a data protection across the European Union and around the world. He is the guiding light for the establishment of privacy as a fundamental right in our modern age. And Joe McNamee’s dedication, perseverance, and wry humor have helped transform the politics of privacy in the EU. He has inspired both respect and fear among members of the European Parliament, and warmth and camaraderie among his colleagues at EDRi.”
Editor's Note: Jennifer Baker recently interviewed McNamee about his recent retirement from EDRi in a profile for The Privacy Advisor.
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