This was 2022: Transparency Report Published
It has become a nice tradition for our organisation to publish the previous year’s transparency report with the financial and activity key figures in summer. Also this year, we would like to take the opportunity to look back on the highlights of the previous year and, in the interest of transparency, to disclose our use of funds in 2022.
Internally, 2022 was a very exciting year that brought many new developments. In the fall, our team expanded by another four colleagues, as we were finally able to establish a project dear to our hearts, the epicenter.academy, thanks to the support of the Work 4.0 Project Fund of the Lower Austrian Chamber of Labor. In addition, our office location has changed and the team has moved into a beautiful old building, directly at the “Naschmarkt” in Vienna.
Our work and successes
As a public watchdog, our whole team deals with legislation around digitalisation, we uncover grievances and warn those responsible as well as the population of possible consequences. We do this on a national, as well as on an international level. For this reason, you can read here first the highlights from our national and then from our European work of 2022.
In January we uncovered massive security vulnerabilities in the platform “oesterreich-testet.at” together with “ORF konkret”. For us, not only the security vulnerability in the IT system of the Ministry of Health was shocking, but also how the courageous security researcher was treated. He lost his job because of the disclosure and we are concerned about the peculiar “responsible-disclosure” practice in Austria. Learn more about the story in this TV report.
As observers of the trial of Julian Hessenthaler (maker of the “Ibiza video”) we continuously reported in our blog, published many investigation files and described our impressions of the verdict. At the same time, we repeatedly appealed to the members of the government to finally implement the long overdue EU Whistleblower Directive. For this reason, infringement proceedings have already been initiated against Austria. In July, the proposal was finally sent for review. Unfortunately, we noticed massive omissions and submitted a detailed statement. When the law was finally passed in the beginning of 2023, our disappointment was immense. The chance to implement a really useful and practical legal instrument for the protection of whistleblowers was missed. This only shows that there is no political will for the protection of whistleblowers in Austria.
In the course of setting up the epicenter.academy, our experts took a close look at data protection standards in Austrian schools. The results of the analyses are shocking. We published our findings in a two-part blog post (Part 1, Part 2) and appealed to those responsible to finally take the protection of children’s and teachers’ data seriously.
Another issue has been keeping us busy since the summer of 2022: The increased push for video surveillance in Vienna. If the city government has its way, the street entrances to Vienna’s 1st district are to get real-time video surveillance in order to be able to automatically punish violations of traffic restrictions. As justification for the massive encroachment on fundamental rights, the mayor and the responsible city councilor, Ulli Sima, cite climate protection and traffic calming. These measures are not only incompatible with the fundamental right of data protection, but would also cost the Viennese population many times more than the already existing concepts of the former Green coalition partner in Vienna, which work without video surveillance and make much more sense in terms of climate protection. We will continue to massively defend this red line – video surveillance in our city – because if the police can watch demonstrations in real time, then Chinese conditions are not far away.
We were also in the streets against the AMS algorithm, educated the public about its dangers with a panel discussion, met with affected communities, and expanded our campaign website to 11 languages. With a focus campaign in Upper Austria, supported by AK Oberösterreich, almost the whole team was on the road for two tour weeks, talking to affected people about the unfair system at the AMS (“Public Employment Service Austria”) which was introduced without a legal basis.
Regarding our work at the European level, we would like to highlight the topics of eIDAS, chat control, and the renewed attack on European net neutrality.
Several times in 2022, we published detailed analyses on the EU reform of the fully harmonized electronic identity system (eIDAS). We had many discussions with stakeholders, were available for media interviews and were invited several times to the EU Parliament as experts on the topic. With our restless work, our requests for amendments and position papers we could already make a big difference in the legislative process and we are still working on it. Here you can find all details about our work around eIDAS.
In May, the EU Commission initiated the end of privacy and secrecy of correspondence on the internet in Europe with a legislative proposal on chat control. The proposal would require hosting and messenger providers to scan their users’ content for potentially illegal content (video, audio, text) using error-prone upload filters. The Commission justifies the proposal to scan all personal messages of European citizens with the fight against child sexual abuse. Already in June, we organised a top-class panel in Vienna’s Burgkino to discuss the issue from different perspectives together with Austrian stakeholders. Furthermore, together with a total of 118 European organisations, we addressed an open letter directly to the EU Commission and actively participated in the European campaign “Stop Scanning me”. In November, the Austrian Parliament, as the first member country, decided in its EU subcommittee with a binding resolution that as long as the chat control proposal is not in line with fundamental rights, the government must not agree. This is an important first step, but a lot of convincing is still needed in the other countries to prevent mass surveillance of our personal messages.
Almost simultaneously, the next attack on net neutrality came from another side of the Commission, namely from Commissioners Margrethe Vestager and Thierry Breton. They both publicly signaled their intention to charge content and application providers (CAPs) a fee for the use of internet infrastructure in the future. This contradicts the fundamental net neutrality principles and fundamental protection principles in the European Union. With a strong coalition of 34 organizations from 17 countries, we immediately spoke out with an open letter and produced a compact paper on the telecom industry’s myths about net neutrality, which has since served as a basis on many negotiating tables. The umbrella of all consumer protection organisations BEUC has also taken a clear position and even the neutral regulatory authorities BEREC have rejected the Commission’s proposal with a devastating verdict. Our experts remain alert and vocal on this issue. Find out more about our work on net neutrality here.
Also this year we would like to say thank you to all supporters of our work!
Despite the inflation, almost all supporting members and donors have remained loyal to us and continue to support us with regular donations (40.35%). Due to the OSF foundation grant and the great support of the AK Niederösterreich project fund “Arbeit 4.0” for our academy project, the source of income “grants, foundations and prize money” is the largest of the association in 2022 (53.74%). We generated the remaining funds with lectures, workshops, as well as rental income (5.53%).
The efficiency of human resources for statutory work was above 80%, as usual. Expenditures in 2022 are divided into 77.60% for statutory purposes and 26.73% for administrative expenses. For public relations, such as OTS mailings and campaign implementation, we used 1.13%. We finalised 2022 with a small loss, which was offset with reserves from previous years (-5.47%).
Since the end of 2019, our association also publishes a monthly cash flow report on the website and social networks in the spirit of transparency.
The media work
Also after the pandemic, net policy issues and digitisation remain very present in the media and we were able to further increase our media reach. In total, we reached 77 million people via media in 2022, a tenfold increase in five years compared to 2017, the first year in our records. As reported in the highlights, we are also increasingly noticed and requested as experts at the European level. Our media presence in 2022 reflects this too. We conducted 80 interviews, 21 of which were interviews with international media, such as Le Monde, the Tagesschau on ARD and ZDF, der Spiegel, die Welt and many more. Our public appearances also increased again (144 in total). We gave talks (30), participated in panel discussions (8), led workshops (39) and participated at community events (61). With our focus campaign against the AMS algorithm, we were present in public spaces in 6 Austrian cities to make statements and educate affected people.
We wrote 35 blog posts on complex technical topics in German and English. The work in the national as well as European legislative process is especially close to our hearts. That's why we submitted 8 parliamentary statements, wrote 10 policy papers, and wrote 15 open letters to stimulate political discourse.
As digitisation continues, interest in our fortnightly newsletter is growing. If you are not subscribed yet, you can sign up for free here. We are happy about every single subscriber, because it shows us that more and more people are interested in digital fundamental rights issues.
A vibrant democracy thrives above all on an active exchange among all participants. That’s why we had a total of 349 meetings. Of these, 245 were held at the European level alone, because strong fundamental rights in an open and free internet need European solutions.
As you can see from the numbers, we try very hard to use the resources at our disposal as efficiently and purposefully as possible, which is why we abstain from advertising and prefer to invest the money in content-related work.
You want to support us too? Find out all about our supporting memberships here.
The entire Transparency Report 2022 is available for download in German and English.
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