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Wednesday, 23 August, 2000, 13:55 GMT 14:55 UK
Spanish Big Brother privacy row
Spanish Big Brother - Gran Hermano
Spain followed Germany and Holland in showing the series
Producers of the Spanish version of TV phenomenon Big Brother could face prosecution after confidential details of potential contestants were displayed on the internet.

Hackers managed to obtain the details of the 1,722 people, which included information on their mental health, their IQs and credit histories.

The data was published on an unofficial website dedicated to the show - known in Spain as Gran Hermano - during its run in July.

Spain's Data Protection Agency is investigating, and could impose a fine of up to 500 million pesetas (1.8m).

Under investigation is the Zeppelin production company, which makes the show.

It is part of Endemol, the Dutch-based company which devised the original show. Bazal, a production arm of Endemol's UK division, makes the British version.

'Innocent victim'

The company claims it is the innocent victim of hackers, and had alerted authorities to the security breach.

It said in a statement: "The producers never improperly used the information, nor are they responsible for its publication on the internet."

But the Data Protection Agency said the hackers had brought to light "infringements of the law", such as not telling potential contestants that data about them was being kept on computer, and sending the information to other companies without their consent.

"These are fundamental rights," agency director Juan Manuel Fernandez told the Reuters news agency.

"They did not erase the files when the contest ended and they kept the data about people who were never informed."

Big Brother sees 10 people living in a camera-filled house which is sealed off from the outside world.

Each week, one person is evicted by viewers, until three remain. A winner is picked, who receives a cash prize.

The show is currently a huge hit for Channel 4 in the UK, and is also proving a success for CBS in the US.

Swiss and Portugeuse versions start next month, while German producers are planning a second series.

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