Toward a police state? A proposed government “data grab”

It doesn’t happen too often, but a few days ago Attila Péterfalvi, president of the National Authority for Data Protection of Freedom of Information (Nemzeti Adatvédelmi és Információszabadság Hatóság/NAIH), strongly criticized the government’s latest attempt to infringe upon the privacy of both Hungarian citizens and foreign visitors.

On July 31 the ministry of interior submitted a bill for consideration which, among other things, aims at a greater scrutiny of individuals and creates a central storage facility for information gathered by state and non-state authorities. Thus, as opposed to the present practice, extracting information on individuals would be a one-step process. At the moment data gathered by the different branches of government and non-government organizations (police, traffic supervision, public transportation authorities, banks, toll road monitors, etc.) can be accessed only by first presenting reasons for their legitimate use. But, as the bill reads now, there would be no judicial oversight of the collected material. Thus, every scrap of information on individuals would be collected in one place where an individual’s whole history could easily be assembled–and all that without any judicial oversight.

In addition, the ministry of interior wants to know more about everybody who spends any time in a hotel as a guest, be that person a Hungarian citizen or a foreign tourist. Hotels would have to copy people’s I.D.s or passports. The state seems to be interested in all the details: date of arrival and anticipated date of departure, sex, birthplace, birth date, citizenship, and mother’s maiden name. All this information would have to be stored and provided upon request to the various national security services. The authorities would also require hotels to install software that would enable the transfer of data collected.

It didn’t take long for Péterfalvi to label the proposed bill “a visual surveillance system for secret information gathering.” Péterfalvi’s letter to one of the assistant undersecretaries can be found on the website of NAIH. His conclusion is that the new law would “further restrict” the individual’s right to the protection of his personal data. He suggested changing the bill to make sure that the state authority that needs the piece of information documents the reasons for its request and specifies the precise scope of the inquiry. He also wants further restrictions on surveillance around churches, polling stations, political meetings, and demonstrations. In addition, Péterfalvi wants NAIH to have the authority to verify the use of the documents requested by the state authorities.

Now that practically the whole government is on vacation, István Hollik of the Christian Democratic Party was the one to react to Péterfalvi’s opposition to the bill. Hollik was brief and noncommittal. According to him, the government will have to consider whether Péterfalvi’s proposals can be incorporated into the bill. But, he added, since the bill otherwise is fine, he sees no problem with the small changes proposed by the president of NAIH. I’m not sure whether Hollik understands that Péterfalvi’s requirements are more substantive than they may appear at first glance.

In any case, Demokratikus Koalíció isn’t satisfied with Péterfalvi’s solution to the problem. The party wants the whole bill to be withdrawn. Péter Niedermüller, co-chair of the party and member of the European Parliament, announced that if the bill, even with the amendments, is passed by the Hungarian parliament, DK will turn to the European Commission because the party believes that the law doesn’t comport with the constitution of the European Union.

Viktor Szigetvári, the president of Együtt’s board, also wants the ministry of interior to immediately withdraw the bill. In his opinion, the bill paves the way for the establishment of a police state. He called attention to the anti-democratic practices of Russia, whose president is Viktor Orbán’s role model, and therefore he suspects that Orbán’s intentions are anything but benevolent. He considers the bill another sign of Orbán’s plans for unlimited power.

MSZP, which seems to be far too preoccupied with its own problems, didn’t make any official announcement about the party’s position on the question. The only comment came from Zsolt Molnár, chairman of the parliamentary committee on national security, whose status in the party is more than shaky after his recent open disagreement with László Botka, the party’s candidate for the premiership. MSZP usually takes a less categorical position than the other opposition parties, and therefore I wasn’t particularly surprised when Molnár stated that there is a need for a new law on data protection but there are several problems with this bill. He called the proposal “excessive, even if national security precautionary measures sometimes justify stricter restrictions.” As usual, MSZP is sitting on the fence.

So far, only a couple of foreign papers have reported on Péterfalvi’s reaction to the proposed bill. Euractive introduced the topic with the headline “Hungary rights chief denounced ‘data grab’ bill,” using AFP’s report from Budapest. It quoted from an interview with Péterfalvi on KlubRádió where he claimed that the bill “would give almost automatic access to personal data.”

I assume the issue will not come up until late September, when the parliament reconvenes.

August 8, 2017
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Jean P.
Guest

” He called attention to the anti-democratic practices of Russia, whose president is Viktor Orbán’s role model…”

…and that president’s role model is Stalin of the purges and gulags.

The planned perfection of surveillance is for the sake of Orban’s security. No restriction on the access to the data will be respected.

Guest

A new law every day keeps sanity away!
How clever to introduce this in the uborka szeszon …

Fidesz policies really are 1984 style!
“Gleichgeschaltete Medien”, ubiqitous surveillance – what’s next?
Maybe a chip implant for everybody?

Totally OT:
I’ve often wondered why Hungarian authorities always want to know “your mother’s maiden name” – in Germany this is toatally irrelevant and never asked.
Id this a kind of secret code in Hungary?

Jean P.
Guest

“I’ve often wondered why Hungarian authorities always want to know “your mother’s maiden name”. ”

The system was probaly introduced in ordert to eliminate uncertainties due to promiscuity.

Ferenc
Guest

“Hungarian authorities always want to know “your mother’s maiden name””
I remeber when this was asked me the first time in Hungary, I got so confused that in order to be sure and give correct data, I called my mother to tell me her full official maiden name!
Happily I remembered it from then on and never had to call for it again…

Observer
Guest

In Hungary too many people have popular names like Nagy, Tóth, etc. hence adding one more identification piece of info. I guess the birth date would have done it pretty well too.

Member

Probably not. I guarantee you there are plenty of Nagy Istvans born on any given day.

Jean P.
Guest
Gretchen
Guest

We are always asked this in the US. Hungary is not alone.

dos929
Guest
Attila Péterfalvi is a true servile official of the Orban regime. Whatever objections he made to the oppressive rulings of the government they were no more than just a token gestures in order to make Hungary look like a democracy, and the current objection is similar. He, as Hungary’s one and only ombudsman, had plenty of opportunity to protest against the hundreds of stomach-turning actions of the regime against the country’s citizens. There is no need to quote any of them, as they are just too numerous to list. So, whatever he has to say it is too little and too late. Besides, by now we had to learn that whatever decision Orban has made already in his sick mind will be carried out no matter what. The road to full dictatorship has to be cleared from any residue of democracy, and the regime is well on its way to achieve this. The most bewildering fact however is why the European Union has let this Hungary’s gradual (or not so gradual…) sliding down towards the point of no return to democracy without any meaningful intervention. The United Kingdom couldn’t stop the Mugabi regime, in spite that the country was part… Read more »
wrfree
Guest

If the pernicious bill goes through it will be assured Magyarorszag’s secret worlds will be lit up like the light of a thousand suns as their ‘lamplighters’ will be on the prowl constantly insinuating surveillance and watchfulness upon its citizens. The age of Kadar would return in all its glory with an action of nefarious and chthonic domestic espionage. Once again manipulation, the relentless drive for information and secretiveness would ratchet up mistrust and betrayals within the country. And then who would spy on the spies?’ as the great spy novelist John Le Carre asked. It is foolish and absurd to think those who get the power to be larcenious should get a free pass.

Back in the Kadar days they had no compunction of taking a passport to ‘checkup’ on things. If they do it now
I surely won’t ever be doing it ever again. They can tell their story walking. Too many memories of intimidation.

bimbi
Guest

Already some seven years ago it was clear that a primary objective of legislation in the Orbán government was, Control, Control, Control – control over all the people of Hungary.

Since that time, the policy has not changed except that Steal, Steal, Steal – steal from all the people of Hungary was added to the agenda.

Both policy strings are still in course of development – the rate of theft has increased greatly and control over individuals is developing just fine as today’s blog shows.

Of course, sweeping data collection and ‘processing’ also serve to pin-point potential troublemakers for the government – to be taken care of by the new ‘Csendörök’.

Ferenc
Guest
OT – refugees and the Balaton Infuriating is the news about Fidesz mayors and local politicians wanting to block a Hungarian aid organization, called Migration Aid, to organize vacations near the Balaton for legally in Hungary staying refugee families. The protesting politicians are from Keszthely and Heviz (on the west-end of the lake), the vacation site (plot of land with 3 summer cottages) would be in Zalavar, some 10km southwards. The mayors and politicians claim that “the news understandably caused panic under the locals”, “it being part of the Soros plan”, etc. All of this is utter and utter BS (bika sz*r), but it shows the (un)reality Fidesz is forcing on the people in Hungary. In reality what these Fidesz representatives want is 101% against ‘their own’ Fundamental Law, giving each and every person legally residing in HU the right to freely move and stay in Hungary!! Source: http://budapestbeacon.com/featured-articles/fidesz-mayors-mp-prevent-refugees-vacationing-lake-balaton/49525 Interview with organization: http://www.atv.hu/videok/video-20170808-siewert-andras On the other, so not Fidesz’s, hand another association organized a daytrip for 44 refugees to Tihany (the peninsula in the middle of Lake Balaton). No problems whatsoever with the locals and other visitors, some refugees even enjoyed the refreshing (?) water of the lake. This seems… Read more »
Guest

Living in a village near Hévíz and Keszthely I’m really angry about this! We’ll have to ask when we’re back in Hungary next week.
I know the Hévíz Mayor – he’s a kind of country bumpkin, nothing compared to the former mayor who was Jewish btw and helped the town grow into a “wellness hub”. If I remember correctly relatively small Hévíz is the town with the highest tax income after Budapest …

Guest

I just read the article in the Bp Beacon – this xenophobia is unbelievable!
Especially if you consider that Keszthely and Hévíz really profit from international tourism. I just hope that the locals don’t agree with their Mayors though I have a nagging feeling that many inhabitants are as xenophobic as their bosses – really strange in a way …
My wife often calls some of our neighbours “bunko paraszt” and doesn’t want too much contact with some of them – I count myself lucky that I don’t understand all their whining and complaining …

Guest

PS:
When I asked my wife what she thought of the Mayors declaring the refugees as “unerwünschte Subjekte” she got really angry at the idiocy of them and called them “just party soldiers” like in Communist times who will do whatever the party leadership aks them to do without thinking about the consequences.
And then she used some swear words on those fascist idiots in Fidesz …
Sometimes I wish that the foreign tourists would react, staying away from Hungary – but then of course only the regular people would be hurt, the Fidesz Mafiosi would just laugh …
We’re still hoping that the EU will react to this.

Ferenc
Guest

“hoping that the EU will react to this”
I think and hope that first of all people in Hungary and especially the concerned towns react to the politicians supposedly governing for them!! Kick them out!!

Ferenc
Guest

Question: what can local people do against local politicians?
Normally people can try through local politics. But in this case, where most likely the majority in the local council and the mayor are both from the same party, there is very little chance that this could lead to something.
Next option could be to start heavy discussions in the local media, and hope that this could lead to something serious against unacceptable behaviour of local politicians. But if succeeding in the media, it probably would still hit the wall of the majority party.
So, leaves over the legal path. Does anybody here know: the legal options, if any, for individuals and/or organizations against local politicians in Hungary?
In this case some local politicians are acting against the rights in the Fundamental Law, which I consider to be a very severe violation of the law, i.e.a crime!!

Observer
Guest

If the Orban mafia looses central government the majority of their politicians can be reported for corruption. Non Fid police, prosecutiurs and courts will be able to jail thousands and ban them from holding public office.

Before the eventual change of central gov nothing will move, the proper way.. witness the Parliament and P.Polt actions …

wrfree
Guest

Re: police state vs democracy

Recently I noted some concern by posters about the state of democracy here. I understand the concern considering the news. I would like to note that the fears could be dismissed based on some personal experience.

Yesterday I received a call from Washington. It was from the office of my Senator. They thanked me for my letter and we had a discussion on views. An enlightening few minutes especially on the ‘Magyar’ issue that I was eager to discuss.

Ideally this should happen with the Magyar reps in Parliament and the electorate if it too is a ‘democracy’. But this business about the country possibly tottering on to a police state has to unnerve all democrats.

petofi
Guest

@ wrfree

I’ve said it before…but here goes again: Democracy is NOT for Hungarians. First off, there has to be a fundamental
sense of one-for-all, and all-for-one. It does not exist in the Hungarian mentality. What does exist is this: I better f*ck the other guy before he f*cks me.
This is precisely, HUNGARICUM.

(HAJRA MAGYAROK!!!)

wrfree
Guest

Re: ‘Democracy is NOT for Hungarians’

All empires fall … eventually.
And the course is like coming off opioids. Anxiety, irritability and constipation are the symptoms. Magyarorszag arguably is made ill by the wrong individuals. The poisons need to seep out.

Observer
Guest

Petofi
It’s called Hobesian trap and has been defined centuries ago. No hungarixum here, Everything is a shade of gray and the Hun one here is dark gray.

Istvan
Guest
Hungary could adopt the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court model if that would please delusional liberals into a calmer state of mind. This court issues so called FISA warrants here in the USA. During the 25 years from 1979 to 2004, 18,742 warrants were granted, while only four were rejected. Fewer than 200 requests had to be modified before being accepted, almost all of them in 2003 and 2004. The topics and subjects of the warrants are secret based on federal law. But really given the amount of electronic data most of us produce that is run through privately controlled ISPs and cellphone providers there is really very little governments don’t have access to f they want it. I am currently reading a book: Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life which really goes into frightening detail on how much of our lives can be exposed for surveillance and commercial use ( see a review at https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jul/13/radical-technologies-adam-greenfield-review ). Really the only way to prevent this level of penetration of our information is by going completely off the information grid, which clearly none of us on this blog are doing. I know two former US Army reservists who are survivalists… Read more »
wrfree
Guest

The Internet giveth and also takes away. Same for the ‘bots’ coming up. AI married to the guardians of privacy and purveyors of deep espionage is a nightmare scenario. Perhaps the battle for ‘privacy’ has been lost already.
And social media at bottom is a gamechanger no doubt as it is useful fodder for all the ‘Circuses’ extant in the world
to program their machinations in the battle for hearts and minds.

Member

Found, thanks. Radical Technologies by Adam Greenfield, 2017, 338 pages

Observer
Guest

Istvan,

What FIS Court are u talking about? Don’t u get it?

Orban’s fascists are going in the opposite direction – they have subverted, gutted out or eliminated all checks (and balances).
The police state is a feature of such regimes and, sure enough, is being constructed in Hun now. In time we’ll see more and more elements in place.

Member

I think Istvan highlighted the fact that those checks are not terribly strong even in the US as far as surveillance goes.

Agreed, the checks on Orban’s will on the other hand are simply non-existent in Hungary.

Istvan
Guest

Yes tappanch you got the idea.

Member

In time for the next international crisis, the international reserves of Hungary fell below the 2008-11-30 level.

July 31 numbers, in 10^9 euros

2010: 34.8
2011: 36.1
2012: 35.9
2013: 33.7
2014: 35.2
2015: 34.6

2016: 24.6
2017: 22.3

petofi
Guest

Now that’s what I call efficiency! Hungary has lost 40% of its reserves in 7 short years–lean for the country; fat for the good o’l boys..

Farges
Guest

Yes, but don’t forget that Orban and Matolcsy would be happy with a much weaker forint.

The inflationary consequences of a devaluation would be limited (compared to the mid-1990 when any 1% devaluation was said to cause .5% inflation immediately) and inflation would actually be good (in fact it seems it’s starting already).

Inflation as you know is a great tricky tax that people tolerate (if it’s not too big) much more than normal taxes. Orban always wanted inflation but under the global deflationary trends it was difficult to have it. Now there may be an opportunity to engineer a bit and Orban would only have more money in the budget to burn on more stadiums.

Guest

Thanks, Farges, for this interesting viewpoint!
I find it strange that the Forint has become stronger against the € this summer – what might be the “real” reason?

Jean P.
Guest

I wonder if anybody has looked into the price and running costs of a know-it-all computer with on-line connections to spying equipment all over the country. Making the software will be beyond the capabilities of Fidesz’ IT-suppliers and the power consumption will be a significant percentage of the total consumption in Hungary.

Observer
Guest

Let me assure u that no cost would count if it’s a matter of protecting the regime. Examples abound, extreme cases are N.Korea, Zimbabwe where the population starve and perish, but the “essentials” (the army or secret police) are paid.

With computerization any amount of info can be processed for “good” use like blackmailing, character assassination or for laying of trumped up criminal charges.
Hajra magyar to the 1930s.

Member

Theoretically, I would be worried. In reality, not so much. The fascist regime is populated by brain-dead, loyalist, morons at every level- technically and operationally they haven’t got a clue. Orban doesn’t triust brains and without brains, a truly functioning police state is an impossibility. They can’t even get a ticket system operating on the metro for crying out loud.

Istvan
Guest

D 7 if the dysfunctional Mexican government can buy from the Israeli firm NSO Group spyware called Pegasus and go after opposition politicians and civil society activists I think there is little doubt Orban can do the same. See https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/30/mexico-spying-scandal-pegasus-opposition

Objectively looked at the Fascist state in Italy under fat boy Benito Mussolini was largely ineffective and incompetent militarily, but effective for crushing his left wing opposition. Italian Fascists such as Roberto Farinacci were deadly effective in destroying the communist party in Italy and ran it off the streets.

Jean P.
Guest

They probably already have a system which can bug mobile telephones. Their ambitions are much higher. They want to collect information on everything, except their own business. It is a consolation that Orban will be unable to find out if he is himself surveilled. The operators of the system can do it and hide it.

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[…] Publicațiile Hungarian Spectrum și Budapest Beacon scriu că inițiativa ar duce la crearea unei baze unice de date video și audio colectate de toate instituțiile și companiile private sau de stat care procesează datele cetățenilor și ale turiștilor. Baza de date ar putea fi apoi accesată de Guvern. […]

Istvan
Guest

In Roumania and also in UK -when you enter in a hotel or register anywhere they request quite a detailed information which occasionally checked by the police -to give this information is mandatory, and also is mandatory for the staff to ask and register this information. Moreover the staff also check your ID and attach a copy of it to your file in case of any foreigner in case of UK -for UK citizens-people also need to fill a quite detailed information which you put in the system. Accusing Hungary for this measures it is bad when whole the world does it. It was a short romantic period when probably do not gave Hungary and any other foreign country importance for this but nowadays security everywhere come first.

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