Hungary to introduce nationwide facial recognition technology

Today I am venturing into an area about which I have only very superficial knowledge: facial recognition technology. From the little I could learn about the system that is going to be introduced in Hungary at the beginning of 2016, it doesn’t involve taking new pictures of all Hungarian citizens but only coding the existing pictures on their ID cards. I might add that not only the biometric pictures of Hungarian citizens will be stored. So will those of everyone who ever lands on the territory of Hungary. According to László Majtényi, the director of Eötvös Károly Intézet (EKIT), a legal think tank, this new Hungarian facial recognition database will be unique in the world. The technology is widely used to identify known or suspected criminals at entry points such as airports, but only Hungary is going to have biometric pictures of an entire population.

So far only LMP, the Hungarian green party, and EKIT have objected to the introduction of this enormous database, consisting of more than ten million people’s coded “pictures.”

From what I managed to find out about the effectiveness of the technology, I’m not sure whether the Hungarian government picked the best way to keep the country safe from terrorists and other criminals. According to a fairly recent article on the subject, the technology is far from perfect. The FBI apparently has a facial recognition database that includes 52 million faces, about a third of all Americans. But since the data is read off a single mugshot, the accuracy of these biometric photos is only 80%. I think we can safely say that the accuracy of the Hungarian database will not be any better than that of FBI.

face recognition

Another problem I can foresee is that Hungary is again going its own separate way just when the European Union is beefing up and coordinating security among the nation states. It is not at all clear that the chosen method of screening for would-be-terrorists or simple criminals will be facial recognition. In fact, I suspect that it will not be and that Brussels will settle for traditional fingerprint technology, especially since, as it turns out, the Turkish government fingerprinted and did palm-vein prints on the refugees from Syria who entered Turkey. Moreover, according to a November 17 background briefing on refugee screening and admission, the “biometric checking” the United States has in mind will most likely consist of comparing fingerprints to already existing FBI, State Department, and Department of Defense files. And the existing European Union database of asylum seekers, called Eurodac, is also based on fingerprint technology. Eurodac is described as “the electronic heart of the European asylum system.”

According to vs.hu, sometime in October the director of the migration department in the Turkish Prime Minister’s Office talked to Hungarian journalists about the existence of their near-complete database of Syrian refugees registered in Turkey. However, when vs.hu inquired from EU’s Frontex, which is in charge of “integrated border management,” whether there is any cooperation between them and the Turkish authorities, the answer was “no.” The Turkish migration office confirmed Frontex’s information. The “bureaucrats in Brussels” also seem to be in total darkness concerning the Turkish database. Cooperation requires political will on both sides, and Turkey might extract a high political price to share its database. But as vs.hu‘s András Kósa says in his article, an attempt should certainly be made to see whether the EU could use the Turkish information on the bona fide Syrians registered by Ankara.

If one looks into the history of the idea of introducing a nationwide facial recognition system in Hungary, it is pretty clear that whatever the aim of the Hungarian government is, it has little if anything to do with the current refugee crisis and the anti-terrorism efforts underway. A year ago a “pilot program” was launched in District VIII, using “the very best” unnamed software system. The information received in the district was then sent on to one of the many secret service offices. It was at the end of August that the ministry of interior announced its intention to propose the introduction of such a system nationwide. The reason for its introduction are many: to counter the international forgery of documents, as a tool in criminal investigations, to aid in the identification of dead bodies, and for the security of politicians.

The database itself will not include personal pieces of information, like names and addresses, but there will be a so-called “contact code” which, in case of need, would allow the authorities to access details about the person being sought. In addition to the police, the five or six secret services, TEK (the anti-terrorist super police), even the parliamentary guard responsible for the safety of the speaker of the house, László Kövér–all told, eighteen organizations will have access to the database, which will be maintained by a 50-member office to be established before the newly adopted law takes effect on January 1, 2016.

Human rights activists realize that a greater effort to help ensure the safety of European citizens will have to be made in the face of terrorist threats, but they object to having a database like the one the Hungarian government proposed and parliament adopted on November 17. László Majtényi is convinced that the Constitutional Court of former days would never agreed to the introduction of such a sweeping control mechanism. Today, however, the Hungarian government doesn’t have to worry about the court finding this piece of legislation unconstitutional. So the only outstanding question is how useful the system will be. Surely, it would have made sense to coordinate such an effort with Brussels and other member states instead of going ahead without any consultation. But cooperation is not exactly the strength of Viktor Orbán.

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Melvin Mark Morrison
Guest

The USA has been using facial recognition for every person inside a stadium for at least ten years searching for terrorists

Guest

I am completely in favour of governments doing evrything to prevent acts of terrorism, but I suspect this latest scheme constitutes yet another infringement of civil liberties, and is just an excuse for Orbán to have an even more thorough vetting of his critics?

Wondercat
Guest

Whilst both ventral (palmar) and dorsal hand-vein patterns are thought specific to individuals, my understanding is that dorsal patterns are more widely used than palmar ones.

Guest

“only Hungary is going to have biometric pictures of an entire population.”

To Fidesz/Orban the entire population is suspect.

Guest

Just imagine a demonstration against Orbán – with cameras filming everybody and then of course matching those faces against that wonderful new data base …
Orwell might be proud – or not?

Observer
Guest

Spot on!
New technologies will inevitably find their way into our lives. The real question is how the regime will use them. I guess there isn’t much doubt about this – they will abuse them like everything else.

Virgil
Guest

Wolfi, this is not how it works. (Yet).

There’s no system in the world – despite claims by software companies winning various tenders with huge claims – which would be able to match normal head shots with dark, murky pictures taken at an evening demonstration from weird angles with moving targets.

Face recognition is still very difficult and problematic even between ID card quality pictures and it is plain impossible to connect an ID database and CCTV camera (security cameras you see on the streets) pictures.

“Face” (individual) recognition is better for purposes like tagging a face at the entrance of the stadium and then following him/her throughout the stadium (where various cameras operate) — but this is also cutting edge stuff, not really available commercially and full of errors.

One reads about a lot of “achievements” by Google etc. but many of these achievements are bullshit, marketing stuff.

But in 5-10 years, we will probably get there.

spectator
Guest

Virgil, I respectfully disagree.

The technology already working just fine since awhile, and improving as we speak.
Another question is how the system(s) as a whole up to the task.

Remember, many of the cameras and their operative environment installed years earlier, and not on the same level of advancement as the facial recognition would require. Hardware, software, throughput capacity, and so on must be synchronised in order to achieve consistent and reliable result, but it’s possible already today.
If somewhere a such system would be installed as new, and not on top of old existing surveillance system, I have no doubt that it would do the job.

Now all we have to do is smile all the time – the whole country in the “Candid Camera”!
Just enjoy Orbán’s practical jokes as long as it goes, if you can still stomach it any longer.

Steven1946
Guest

Wolfi, I am in Tubingen. We could meet if you are here. Stadthalle. 12:00 noon Tuesday. Weingassle/Haaggasse corner?

Steven1946
Guest

Correction: Rathaus

Guest

Sorry, Steven – I’m in Orbanistan right now. Will be in Tübingen from the 27th/28th for around a week.

Steven1946
Guest

Sorry, I will be gone by Thursday.

Refugee news from Tubingen.
A Rupert Neudeck received a special Burger Prize.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rupert_Neudeck

Flüchtlingsexperte Rupert Neudeck bei der Verleihung der Bürgerpreise

http://www.tagblatt.de/Home/nachrichten/tuebingen_costart,1.html

exTor
Guest

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_enforcement_in_Hungary

You can bet that Hungary has a department that does active surveillance of all demonstrations. The pictures taken at demos will be matched with known individuals.

In the US, both the FBI and the NSA have spied on American citizens, either legally or illegally. There might be other agencies in the US that nobody has really heard of and that also do national surveillance.

According to the Wikiarticle, the Nemzeti Nyomozó Iroda [National Bureau of Investigation] is the equivalent of the FBI, however the Nemzetbiztonsági Szakszolgálat [National Security Service] or the Nemzeti Védelmi Szolgálat [National Protection Service] could be agencies charged with keeping tabs on the Magyar citizenry. Either of these two could be an NSA equivalent.

MAGYARKOZÓ

Guest

Re: ‘Orwell might be proud – or not?’

You know in Orwell’s day at least surveillance cameras didn’t perch from on high onto walkers in Hyde Park. Today well it’s EVERYWHERE. Pretty soon words with etymological roots relating to ‘privatus’ (‘apart from the state’) will be struck completely from human vocabularies. Another headache for the EU to adjudicate with its members. And of course some we know could take advantage. It’s been done before and if the past is a guide it will. And like Boris Badenov said in cartoon land , ‘Never underestimate the power of a schnook’…;-)…Slowly we are in a world saying goodbye to ‘privacy’.

Guest

They will make a law against demonstrators wearing masks, if they haven’t already made it.

Member

As we know Orban’s “consultation” in his domain did not bring all the results they expected even after printing QR codes on each mail back flyers. Now, he can track everyone individually. Privacy as such did not exist for a long time now. How can forget the flyers posted in apartment building about “reporting” on each other? It is in deed Rakosi redux.

Member

OT I not use such words lightly as “stupid”, but we reached a point when Orban’s mental problems, and inherent arrogance, childhood abuse cannot simply explain the statements he makes. The news gem from Hungary’s Prime Minister: “Senki nem ismeri el, de az igazság az, hogy gyakorlatilag minden terrorista migráns. A kérdés csak az, hogy mikor vándoroltak be az Európai Unióba”. Not only his math, social science, history fails this so called “head of state”, but I think he is simply stupid.

http://index.hu/belfold/2015/11/23/orban_a_terroristak_mind_bevandorlok/

Mo Ibrahim, Magdi Yacoob, It is about 1.5 million black people are in France.

exTor
Guest

MagyarOrszág ViktorOrbán
“minden terrorista migráns”

·· MO VO matematikája ··

terroristák = bevándorlók
bevándorlók = terroristák

MAGYARKOZÓ

emma6
Guest

The more you repeat it the more Orban will be happy. The best method is to ignore these mantras.

Member

I was so taken that I forgot to provide a loose translation: The truth is that essentially all terrorists are migrants. The only question is, when did they immigrate to the EU.

Guest

Here are some of The big O’s wisdoms in English:
http://bbj.hu/politics/orban-all-terrorists-are-migrants_107583
The last words are especially interesting – or not?

Commenting on Hungary’s strengthening ties with Russia, Orbán said that “if you would like to have a relationship with the Russians based on principles, it will never work”, politico.eu reported. According to Orbán European and Russian principles are “impossible to harmonize. So put aside principles, ideologies and look at the interest, and find the common sense realpolitik agreements. That’s the Hungarian approach,” politico.eu quoted Orbán.

“Putin is someone you can cooperate with. He’s not an easy man. He has no personal feelings [for] you…. He is not a man who has a known personality, so don’t imagine him as you like to imagine Western leaders,” Orbán said, according to politico.eu.

If you exchange Putin into Orbán here …
Ain’t that funny – and he doesn’t realise it …

Opus
Guest

“Getting up from his seat around a large conference table, Orbán walks over to the books stacked on his desk and shelf. He picks up a tract on Europe he’s reading by Jürgen Habermas, the German philosopher and proponent of a closer, federal EU. “The most dangerous book,” he calls it.

There are essay collections by the founder of the ultra-conservative Catholic Opus Dei movement (Orbán’s a Calvinist) and the Hungarian Nobel laureate in literature, Imre Kertész. He’s reading about the political theory of Islam and another book by a Hungarian writer on the global sexual revolution — “an anti-gender study,” he says, “about how we destroy freedom in the name of freedom.”

Guest

Orban’s mantras written in Hungarian on HS are not likely to teach the world anything.

webber
Guest
Guest

Re: Orban in interview: “The basic character of all politics is cooperation, not confrontation,” he says. “We cooperate. We confront when it is necessary, not because we enjoy it.”

As the late diplomat Holbrooke said, ‘ Diplomacy is like jazz, endless variations on a theme’. Cause of Orban’s ‘listener’ fatigue to US diplomacy: that guy just doesn’t like Miles Davis and maybe just maybe too many Russian violins in the background giving a somewhat tense sound. And come to think of it Davis’ notes are way way ‘free’ indeed for that liberal music.

Probec
Guest

Russia is winning. Putin is happy and Orban is happy.

http://www.ft.com/intl/fastft/429561/russian-stocks-soar-highest-level-since-2008

webber
Guest

How does the Russian stock market have ANYTHING to do with Orban’s Hungary???
Stock markets go up, and they go down, often for totally irrational reasons.
Oil is at a little over $40 a barrel just now.
What effect do you think that has on the Russian budget? Hmmm?
And what does THAT have to do with Orban’s Hungary?
Presumably low oil prices are great for Hungary – the country imports most of the oil it uses, after all.
Orban said Hungarians had to be realists in dealing with Russia, so: Realistically speaking, what is bad for Russia is excellent for Hungary.

palladium
Guest

Paks 2 marches on. There’s no giving in to Brussels.

The legal issues raised by the Commission represent only the usual hullabaloo. Those issues are part of the stage show the Commission likes to perform, but all will be settled.

Maybe Orban will have to vote this way or that way, but a compromise can always be found. The EU is all about politics and horsetrading and nobody does those better than Orban. On politically important issue he always wins.

Precious time would be lost if the Hungarian government would brack-track any time the Commission raises some issues. Sorry Brussels, this is not how it works in Hungary. There is a real government here, which decides and then executes.

http://444.hu/2015/11/23/egyre-inkabb-ugy-tunik-hogy-a-brusszeli-tiltakozas-ellenere-is-belevag-a-kormany-paksi-epitkezesbe-az-oroszokkal

webber
Guest
Yeah, yeah, we’ve heard all that before. 444 has been consistently wrong about Paks – so wrong that it is now clear it’s a government spokesman (or it only takes information from the government, and thinks it’s the truth – what a sham!) Just a few weeks ago your type was writing here that Lazar had fixed it all (based on something similarly off from 444), and that the EU wasn’t going to initiate procedures against the Hungarian government for Paks. That was wrong. Now you’re crowing that “this is a real government here, which decides and then executes.” If you were right, I’d ask if you’re happy about it, but it’s just so much false triumphalist blablabla again. This has been such a pattern from you lot – under various names – that I have to assume you are government trolls. Don’t you get bored of repeating your own lies? How’s the Népliget museum thing going? According to the latest leaks, that’s on hold now. Your lot used to come on saying it will not be stopped, it’s “definitely on” this “real government” does “everything it promises” (are you stupid, or do you assume we are? your choice) Sadly,… Read more »
webber
Guest

p.s. Palladium, were you also one of those who said former Pres. Pál Schmitt wasn’t a plagiarist? The story you posted just said Lázár SAYS they’ll go ahead with Paks – and Lázár doesn’t say they have gone ahead with it. So, you believe him? Based on what? What hasn’t he lied about so far?

repcei
Guest

dr. Pal Schmitt is a hero of Hungary, won two Olympic medals. He will always be a hero.

webber
Guest

He is an Olympic champion, but he is not a doctor, and that is official.
The degree was withdrawn from him, because he plagiarized his thesis (and lied about it too, btw).
You have no right to put the letters dr before his name. He doesn’t use them now either.

spectator
Guest

Exactly!

And that’s why Hungary is a laughing stock of the civilised world, you see.
Being a “hero” doesn’t absolve someone who supposed to be president – or prime minister, for that matter – to learn the language he has born with properly, does it? Just read any of Orbán’s speeches and you’ll see it yourself.

Neither Schmitt nor Orbán speaks Hungarian correctly, not to mention that the “álamfő” couldn’t even write!

Just how preposterous that the “greatest” nationalist Hungarians can’t speak/write Hungarian..?

Member

Your hero. He is cheater, a lier and a fraud. Thank goodness doping was not investigated at the time. I would not be surprised to learn about how he flopped his way to the top. For your sake I hope you choose better role models for your children, or they will end up in jail. Of course not in Hungary. Maybe they will be even become Presidents! Second thought, teach them to live like Schmitt. You will be so proud!

Member

Not to worry, it is not his money he is risking. He put hat into his more secure vineries. It is the taxpayers money he likes to gamble. Yo much use lots of casinos yourself. At least your helping Victor’s good friend Vajna with those. You see there are no risks, for your dear leader and his “pereputty.”

Guest

@palladium

“There is no giving in to Brussels”

You seem to mean that if Hungary obeys the EU rules it accepted in order to join the EU it is “giving in”. If you have second thoughts about the rules of the club you quit the club, you don’t scream that the club attacks me but I am not going to give in.

Istvan
Guest
Gergely Bárándy a member of the Hungarian National Assembly and the MSZP yesterday in Parliament compared PM Orban to Chicago’s Al Capone, only that Capone got caught for tax evasion and Orban has not. I have to say as a Chicagoan I find the comparison most inappropriate. Deirdre Marie Capone who is Al’s grand nice and still lives in the Chicago area would find having her great uncle being compared to the corrupt dictator of a small nation like Hungary a slander of some significance. In fact Al once wrote this reflection: “There’s a lot of people in Chicago that got me pegged for one of those bloodthirsty mobsters you read about in storybooks. The kind that tortures his victims, cuts off their ears, puts their eyes out with a red-hot poker and grins while he’s doing it. Now get me right. I’m not posing as a model for youth. I’ve had to do a lot of things I don’t like to do. But I’m not as black as I’m painted. I’m human. I’ve got a heart in me.” The key difference between big Al and kicsit Viktor is Orban likes and thrives on the evil deeds he perpetuates, Al… Read more »
webber
Guest

Al Capone ran a soup kitchen for the poor, where anyone who came was fed for free: black, white, immigrant or native born, it didn’t matter. Nobody was turned away. If you were hungry, you were fed.

Orban’s govt. has, over the years passed laws criminalizing begging and sleeping in public, and feeding and aiding the poor and immigrants.
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TeamBritanniaHu
Guest

As a British subject, I would be against this measure for non-Hungarian citizens, unless it was brought in for European citizens within the Schengen area and the United Kingdom. There is no evidence presented to suggest that it will prevent terrorists travelling at will. Two British ‘terrorists’ were recently picked up on a train by Hungarian transport police near the Romanian border, having traveled from Britain with only a British driving licence. More resources should go into ordinary and special police forces, especially interpol. I have no objection to security cameras at airports and border crossings, but I do object to my details (other than those on my passport and ID cards) being kept on data banks and passed on to other agencies without my knowledge or approval, given a reasonable justification. If we start treating everyone as a potential terrorist, what then for our Common European values which the Orbán government says it values so highly? This sounds to me like surrender, and you know what Churchill had to say about that.

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