- 31 Mar 2016 9:00 AM
“We would ban communication devices that [law enforcement agencies] are not able to surveil despite having the legal authority to do so,” Fidesz vice-president and parliamentary fraction vice-chairman Gergely Gulyás said yesterday.
Soon after making this blunderous statement, Gulyás told Hungarian news site Index.hu that this has nothing to do with the interior ministry wanting to ban or restrict access to smartphones with its soon-to-be-unveiled anti-terrorism legislation.
According to Gulyás, the restriction would pertain to free encryption applications available on smartphones.
The ruling party’s goal is simple: it wants to legalize mass surveillance of Hungarian citizens. Currently, Hungarian law enforcement agencies already have the authority to tap phones, log internet traffic, search private property, plant bugs, etc., but all this must be done with the approval of a judge (something like a warrant). However, the current legal framework in Hungary also allows for law enforcement agencies to conduct surveillance of individuals within the framework of counter-terrorism operations.
A recent ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg shot down this practice in Hungary, but the legal framework allowing it to continue has yet to be modified.
The Fidesz government would now like to lay a legal foundation that would make mass surveillance of citizens possible in an effort to thwart any potential terror attacks.
According to a recent study by Elizabeth Stoycheff, Assistant Professor of Journalism and New Media at Wayne State University, published in Journalism and Mass Communications Quarterly, mass surveillance drives citizens to suppress opinions perceived to be in the minority.
“It concerns me that surveillance seems to be enabling a culture of self-censorship because it further disenfranchises minority groups,” Stoycheff told the Washington Post. “And it is difficult to protect and extend the rights of these vulnerable populations when their voices aren’t part of the discussion. Democracy thrives on a diversity of ideas, and self-censorship starves it.”
But the debate regarding mass surveillance extends well beyond the right to privacy as it concerns civil liberties. Business executives, lawyers and journalists are also avid users of encryption software for the same exact reasons.
Source: The Budapest Beacon
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