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Magyar Nemzet: Opposition Illegally Collected and Used Personal Data for Campaign Purposes

Hungary Today 2022.04.01.

More than 1 million Hungarian voters received opposition campaign messages on their phones, pro-Fidesz new site Magyar Nemzet reports. Furthermore, according to the portal, voters were reached using an illegal database, which raises various legal concerns. The six-party opposition alliance denies any involvement, calling the news a coordinated attack from the Pro-Fidesz media.

In recent weeks, numerous, mostly pro-Fidesz news sites have reported that a large number of their readers and colleagues have been receiving campaign messages on their phones from unknown numbers.

For examples, several journalists from the news site of weekly 168 Óra – a media outlet considered to be leftist but owned by circles considered to be close to Fidesz –  received text messages in which they were often addressed by name that read: “On April 3, join the West like your brave ancestors in ’56” or “Public money does not belong to oligarchs, it’s your money. Make a change.”

What the messages all have in common is that they contain campaign messages quite similar to that of the six-party opposition alliance, but in a completely anonymous way, without the appearance or mention of any party or political organization.

This is the main problem with text messages: according to Hungarian legislation and the official resolution of the media regulator NMHH, all political advertisements must bear an Impressum – i.e. the advertiser must be identifiable. This is not the case for these messages.

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However, as 168 Óra points out, this method could easily be an attempt to take advantage of a legal loophole, as according to NMHH “only a statement in which a party or political movement is clearly identified is considered to be a political advertisement.”

In a Thursday article, pro-Fidesz news site Magyar Nemzet wrote that the organization behind the text message campaign is likely data analyst firm, DatAdat Group, a company of former Socialist Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai.

According to the article, the campaign was carried out using an illegal database, and around 1 million citizens had already received the messages.

The illegally-obtained dataset consists of downloaded phone numbers linked to names from Facebook profiles and contact details extracted from banking and commercial databases, the portal claims.

According to Magyar Nemzet, this also explains why the advertisers sent out the phone messages in question without targeting a specific audience. Thus, in addition to opposition voters, a large number of pro-Fidesz voters, several members of government, and conservative public figures all received similar messages as well.

Data Authority Head: Case Raises Privacy Concerns

The National Authority for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (NAIH) has received several complaints about the opposition’s text message campaign, Attila Péterfalvi said in a radio interview on Thursday.

According to the president of the NAIH, the case raises privacy concerns because the messages only include phone numbers, while it remains unknown who the data handler is behind those phone numbers.

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Attila Péterfalvi said that the message does not comply with any rules, and revealed the authority even received complaints where the complainant – attaching the message – explained that they were addressed by a nickname they use on instant messaging app Facebook Messenger.

Fidesz: Text Message Campaign raises suspicions of illegal use of personal data and illicit campaign financing

In a video statement on Tuesday, Fidesz communications director István Hollik called the text message campaign illegal, and said it could also raise suspicions of illegal use of personal data and illicit campaign financing.

Opposition calls allegation ‘coordinated communications attack’

In reaction to the allegations, the press office of the opposition alliance told government-critical news site Telex that the whole case is nothing more than a coordinated communications attack in an attempt to smear opposition alliance supporters.

According to the six-party alliance, the opposition’s campaign uses only legal databases, and no text messages attributed to them ‘in the Fidesz propaganda media’ were sent to anyone.

The opposition alliance added: “…in case it is proven that the Fidesz campaign is illegally and abusively targeting opposition voters with its fake campaign,” they will take the necessary legal action.

Featured photo illustration via pixabay.com

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