Hungary rights chief denounces ‘data grab’ bill

Hungary's data protection watchdog has harshly criticised the government's plans to centralise citizens' data. [European People's Party/Flickr]

Hungary’s data protection watchdog on Monday (7 August) lashed out at government plans to centralise personal data and ease rules on allowing official access, calling them a major threat to citizens’ rights.

The bill, which was filed in parliament late last month, would lead to surveillance without any legal oversight, Attila Peterfalvi, head of the Hungarian Data Protection Authority (NAIH), told the station Klubradio.

“The bill would hand visual and audio recordings made by various bodies to a centralised data storage organisation,” he said.

“It would give almost automatic access to personal data gathered by various authorities such as the national or local police, road hauliers or others,” he added.

That raises a “serious problem” for civil liberties, Peterfalvi said.

The authorities could trawl through centralised system without needing justification or permission, he argued.

It might even be impossible to trace who consulted the data, he said.

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Peterfalvi argued that, at the very least, anyone consulting such data would have to explain why they needed to do so, and access to data gathered from churches, voting booths or political gatherings should be restricted.

The bill was drawn up by Hungary’s rightwing populist premier Viktor Orban, whom critics have regularly accused of authoritarianism.

The proposed law has still to go before parliament, but the policies pursued by Orban’s government have already provoked a backlash abroad.

Last month, the European Union launched legal action against Hungary over a crackdown on foreign-backed civil society groups.

Some critics argued that it targetted US billionaire George Soros and denounced what they said was its anti-Semitic tone.

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