[This is a REPOST of the text published during the BigBrotherAward 2018; HERE you can read the original text in German, or watch the VIDEO of the award ceremony. /// Das ist ein Repost des Textes, der im Rahmen der BigBrotherAward 2018 veröffentlicht wurde; hier könnt ihr den Originaltext in deutscher Sprache lesen, oder euch das Video der Preisverleihung anschauen]
The BigBrotherAward 2018 in the category “Administration” goes to “Cevisio Software und Systeme GmbH” from Torgau, Bavaria, Germany for their software “Cevisio QMM” (neighbourhood management), which was developed in cooperation with the German Red Cross especially for refugee accommodation. With this software, movements to and on the premises, food expenses, medical checks such as X-ray, blood and stool examinations, kinship, religious and national affiliations and much more are recorded and stored. The data allow total control of the refugees and clearly show on how many levels privacy can be violated.
The software is not only prize-worthy because of the possible data protection violations it may cause, but above all because of the human image behind it. Refugees are people, not things. They do not lie on a shelf for later collection and use, they are not prisoners and do not require close observation. They seek protection with us and have rights – human rights and fundamental rights that are not worth mentioning to Cevisio.
When many refugees came to Germany in 2015, the authorities were in chaos. The collection of data and the organisation of accommodation and care posed great challenges for those involved. The medium-sized company Cevisio developed the solution together with the German Red Cross Regional Association of Saxony. The company advertises its software on its homepage by using it in over 280 recording facilities. In total, “more than 380,000 refugees are already being administered.”
According to this, the Cevisio neighborhood management software collects data about all these people. An identification card with an RFID chip or barcode forms the basis for the recording. With this card, the residents move around in their accommodation and – according to the software makers’ plan – hold them in front of a reader in various places: at the entrance and exit, at the food counter, at the laundry when they receive pocket money, when renting books or video films, during medical examinations or during voluntary work.
These so-called “actions” recorded in the accommodations are managed by the software via interfaces together with the data of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees – the BAMF – and with the files of the immigration authorities. Among other things, information on existing pregnancies, related persons, medical data with “initial and follow-up examinations including findings” is recorded. We also guarantee the recording of “all documents”. The software thus enables not only the “administration” but also the (quote) “accounting of the refugees”. It allows “the recording of all data on the asylum procedure, such as EASY optimisation and BAMF data”.
That’s total control. Daily routines, habits, contacts, relatives, state of health, asylum status – all in one place. Linked and evaluable.
Some things certainly make sense, e.g. information on allergies, or whether special Ramadan food is desired. However, the Cevisio software goes much further: The functional scope brochure refers, for example, to the “recording of all meals served to one person” and “note in the case of multiple serving of a meal to one person”. What do you need it for?
Is it necessary to meticulously record and store every movement into or out of the house? Yes, says the said brochure (quote): “The integrated attendance overview always shows up-to-the-second which refugees and helpers/employees are currently in an accommodation. In addition to a pure control function, this overview is indispensable, especially in the event of a disaster (fire, etc.)”.
“Indispensable!” It seems almost strange that hundreds of thousands of schools, department stores or youth hostels still manage without such an up-to-the-second overview. Are they all irresponsible?
No, this is life. Including a certain life risk. Cevisio’s data collection, on the other hand, is a wet dream for surveillance fanatics. We see here no empathy with people who have also fled to Germany for a life in freedom.
Perhaps it is pragmatism according to the motto “nobody is interested” if the word “data protection” does not appear once in the 15-page system presentation. Technical data security precautions are concealed behind the term “administration”. I could not find any functionalities for the rights of those concerned, e.g. for the provision of information or transparency for the refugees.
There are also shortcomings in practice: In her current annual report1, the data protection officer in Bremen expresses “considerable data protection concerns”. Storage periods were far too long. It was not clear to her why every serving of food had to be checked. The storage of health data had to be massively reduced at their instigation. No options were granted to the persons concerned in the case of information on relatives. Many questions are still open today.
The Bremen data protection control referred only to a few of the institutions. There is no guarantee and no possibility of control that unlawful monitoring possibilities will be eliminated in the other 270 facilities. The legal situation is the same everywhere and could be preset in the software, e.g. with automatic deletion periods. Cevisio could provide the operators with help and information on data protection.
We ask: Does this software structure have to do with the fact that refugees are the people affected here? Safe – Refugee shelters are logistically complex systems and operators like the DRC and others can well use digital support. But how are refugees to integrate with us if they are deprived of the values of our oft-cited guiding culture, i.e. the values of our Basic Law? These values include self-determination, the right to informational self-determination.
The Cevisio software “neighbourhood management” is only one example of a patronizing, non-transparent and surveillance-hungry treatment of refugees in general. There are confidentiality agreements of the Federal Employment Agency that release everyone and everyone from confidentiality, including social welfare offices and migration advice centres. In 2016, a so-called Data Exchange Improvement Act stipulated that practically every office may inform others about refugees if it appears necessary. In order to determine the origin of refugees, the BAMF had access to the smartphones of the refugees approved, on which all communications and a lot of private information is stored.
At the same time, independent refugee consultations report that by referring to data protection, some authorities refuse them information that would be important for advice and assistance. Here data protection is being misused as a false pretext for hindering social work.
We must be particularly careful when dealing with refugee data. Both the National Socialists and the GDR regime controlled and maltreated their population with information and data collection. The governments of the countries from which people flee to us often torture their people through control, arbitrariness and use of what they know about these people. The risk of deepening existing traumas in data management à la Cevisio and the risk of our data collections falling into the wrong hands, for example from the secret services of our home country, is great. Software companies also have a responsibility to avert such dangers. We should be aware: What is practised today for refugees may already be applied to us tomorrow.
Congratulations on the BigBrotherAward 2018 in the category Administration, Cevisio.