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Hungary could store the ‘facial data’ of its citizens

In Hungary

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Hungary’s Interior Ministry published a proposal for bill last week that would establish an authority exclusively responsible for storing the “facial data” of Hungarian citizens based on identification photos, and providing this information to Hungarian law enforcement authorities, such as police and intelligence services, on request, online daily index.hu reported today.

According to the proposal for the bill, the authority would store encoded “profiles” generated from the identification photos of citizens, containing letters and numbers. Following the encoding process, the actual digital photos would be destroyed. As such, the profiles of citizens will not contain actual photos but a set of data, the proposal says, which cannot be converted back into photos. This data, however, will be used by a facial recognition program.

The profiles would be created after an identification photo of a Hungarian citizen is taken, in the process of obtaining an official document, such as an ID card, passport or a driverʼs license.

In a letter sent to index.hu, the Hungarian National Authority for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (NAIH) said that it is “understandable” that the government is trying to increase the role of biometric identification in law enforcement, however, it is an exaggeration that the basis of this would be outlined in an “incomplete” proposal such as this bill.

Last November, NAIH raised issues in connection with a database of identification photos, index.hu reported. One such issue mentioned by NAIH is the difficulty in using a type of encoding that would in turn make it impossible to retrieve actual photos from the data generated in the initial process. NAIH was also concerned about what might happen if the original photos were inadvertently not destroyed or were passed on to law enforcement authorities in an unauthorized way.

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