Hungarian government proposes storing biometric data of citizens

Hungary’s Interior Ministry proposed a new bill last week that creates an authority to oversee the storing of facial data of citizens based on photos from their identification documents, according to a report by Budapest Business Journal.

The proposal for the bill states that the Hungarian government would be able to provide this biometric information to Hungarian law enforcement authorities, such as police and intelligence services, on a request basis.

Additionally, the authority would store encoded profiles that include the identification photos of citizens in a series of letters and numbers.

Once fully encoded, the actual digital photos would be destroyed. As a result, the profiles will not contain actual photos, but rather a set of data which cannot be converted back into photos. This data, however, will be used by a facial recognition program.

These profiles would be generated when a Hungarian citizen gets their identification photo taken during the overall process of obtaining a government-issued identification document, such as an ID card, passport or a driverʼs license.

The Hungarian National Authority for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (NAIH) said that while it is “understandable” that the government is trying to better incorporate biometric identification in law enforcement, it is unlikely that it would be comprehensively detailed in a proposal for a bill.

Last November, NAIH raised concerns over the government’s proposed database of identification photos.

The agency said that it would be difficult to use the encoding method, which would make it impossible to retrieve actual photos from the data generated in the initial process.

NAIH also said there could be serious consequences if the original photos were not destroyed or were distributed to law enforcement authorities in an unauthorized manner.

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