Academic journal article Journal of National Security Law & Policy

How Technology Enhances the Right to Privacy - A Case Study on the Right to Hide Project of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union

Academic journal article Journal of National Security Law & Policy

How Technology Enhances the Right to Privacy - A Case Study on the Right to Hide Project of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union

Article excerpt


The Right to Hide project of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) is a website dedicated to the promotion of privacy-enhancing technologies. The HCLU developed the (and in Hungarian the websites to offer tips and tools for every Internet user on how to protect their online privacy. Part I presents the legal and political atmosphere in which the HCLU realized the urgency to develop the website and discusses the current shortcomings of the Hungarian privacy, surveillance, and whistle-blower protection laws.

In Part II, we cover some of the theoretical and practical answers the website offers to these problems. We share these solutions through the HCLU's Right to Hide website as a way of surmounting the legal and political hurdles that limit the fundamental right to privacy in Hungary.

The HCLU is a non-profit human rights watchdog NGO that was established in Budapest, Hungary in 1994. The HCLU works independently of political parties, the state or any of its institutions. The HCLU's aim is to promote the cause of fundamental rights. Generally, it has the goal of building and strengthening civil society and the rule of law in Hungary and in the Central and Eastern European (CEE) region. Since the HCLU is an independent non-profit organization, it relies mostly on foundations and private donations for financial support. The HCLU strives to educate citizens about their basic human rights and freedoms through public education programs, and takes a stand against undue interference and misuse of power by those in positions of authority. The HCLU's Data Protection and Freedom of Information Program has been involved in a number of landmark privacy and access to information cases in Hungary and before the European Court of Human Rights. The HCLU also provides legal representation to whistle-blowers.

Domestic human rights violations have been a primary focus of the HCLU; its mission is to protect the rights of individuals when the state abuses its powers. The HCLU's Data Protection Program, however, has broadened the scope of the program's activity to the private sector, to the special role of telephone and Internet service providers in particular. Yet, because there is a lack of adequate safeguards for the protection of personal data and the privacy of individuals, pursuing legal remedies in cases of privacy and other human rights violations can be difficult. Therefore, the HCLU has sought a solution that empowers average citizens and special groups like activists, journalists and whistle-blowers to proactively protect themselves. Strengthening the organization's capacities with a technologist was a key step in this direction. In February 2015, a team of lawyers, technologists, and communications experts started to work on the development of the HCLU's website to promote privacy enhancing technologies.

I. Background: the Hungarian Legal and Political Atmosphere and Why the Right to Hide Project Was Born

The driving force behind the Right to Hide project is a mixture of the following factors. We believe that the Hungarian legal regime (1) fails to provide adequate privacy safeguards (2) against the government's increasing surveillance laws and practices. The legal failure is complemented by (3) a lack of awareness and information among the citizenry. Based on our experience in human rights advocacy and legal aid, there is a pressing need in Hungarian society for a deeper understanding and appreciation of the value of human rights and the rule of law - privacy and data protection are hardly exceptions to the general lack of awareness. On top of that, the current political regime has (4) curtailed fundamental rights and undermined the rule of law and (5) taken antagonistic measures against its critics, including civil society organizations, journalists and whistle-blowers.1 These groups have a compelling need for special online privacy protection. …

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