Last 15 September the European Parliament (with the exception of a few parties, including the Brothers of Italy and the Lega) adopted a resolution condemning Hungary as no longer a democracy, but a “hybrid regime of electoral autocracy”. The report states that respect for the values enshrined in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union (including democracy and fundamental rights) in Hungary is is further damagedor thanks to the “deliberate and systematic attempts of the Hungarian government”, aggravated by the inaction of the EU.
The main points of the report include the lack of pluralism, the approval of laws that violate the freedom of expression and fundamental rights of LGBTQIA + people, but also a serious crisis for the privacy and respect of citizens’ personal data. This already emerged in document adopted in 2018 by the European Parliament itself in which there were 12 areas of concern for democracy and rights in Hungary.
We need to ask ourselves two interconnected questions: 1) Why is privacy at risk in Hungary? 2) Why would this even be a problem for democracy in Hungary?
Let’s start with the first question. In the 2018 document there were two sets of (related) problems: the first was the proven breach of the independence of the data protection authority in Hungary. Parliament, following a reform law, had the then president of the authority resigned two years before the end of the mandate. Considering that the guarantor must be a totally independent authority, protected from any interference by political power, this act was judged by the EU Court of Justice as a violation of the Directive on the protection of personal data.
The problems don’t stop there. Both the 2018 and 2022 documents are in agreement in condemning the total inadequacy of the rules Hungarians who limit the surveillance by the secret services of citizens. Already in 2016 the European Court of Human Rights had severely condemned Hungary for this. The United Nations confirmed this in 2018, condemning the inadequacy of safeguards against the government’s arbitrary power to carry out mass wiretapping and without the possibility of adequate remedies by citizens (including the lack of an independent authority to authorize and control ).
The 2022 Report only raises awareness of this problem: it has been proven that over the past few months well ten lawyers (including the president of the Hungarian Bar Association) and five journalists were subjected to “spyware” surveillance Pegasus on their electronic devices, with the mere authorization of the Minister of Justice. Ergo, no independent body and no magistrate had authorized thisa serious intrusion by the secret services, but only one member of the Orb governmentatn. And what is even more scandalous is to discover that all this era formally legal according to the regulations in force. The problem, therefore, is not a violation of Hungarian privacy laws, but the inadequacy of those laws same.
And now let’s go to the second question. Why would this even be a problem for democracy in Hungary?
If it were not already evident from what has been said so far, it is good to underline that privacy and protection from intrusions into our private life they are a pillar of democracy. Democracy, in fact, is not the mere possibility of voting in elections, unlike how much sembra affirm Giorgia Meloni in defense of Orgrandman (“Orbatn he won the elections, several times even by a large margin, with all the rest of the constitutional arc lined up against him, it is a democratic system “). On the contrary, democracy is the respect of a series of guarantees and counterweights that allow the protection of the fundamental rights of citizens in a country with free elections and universal suffrage, regardless of the outcome of those elections.
Privacy is one of these fundamental guarantees, always and for many reasons: guaranteeing confidentiality makes it possible to avoid threats by political power against the freedom of expression and the freedom of the press, for example, but also the freedom of assembly, association and, therefore, the freedom of citizens to freely form critical political thinking (and vote accordingly). Guaranteeing privacy and respect for personal data helps to prevent discrimination of individuals on the basis of sensitive characteristics and therefore helps to guarantee the free exercise of their rights (political, civil, social). Avoiding a massive collection of personal behavioral data allows to avoid online campaigns of personalized mental manipulation of voters (as sadly happened, for example, in the case of Cambridge Analytica).
In other words, in a world where more and more “the power is information”, the power to accumulate personal information that can be used against individual citizens, to blackmail them, control them, block them, force them to consent must be severely limited.
So, no: democracy is not just win the election. Democracy it is a method, fragile, living in a dynamic equilibrium. Democracy is a complex machine of which the polling booth does not is that the engineto be used with care.