Hungary has suspended some elements of GDPR as part of its strategy for dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. Having declared a state of emergency on 11th March, the authorities have been able to do this because they can govern by decree.

The decree suspending parts of GDPR was issued on 4th May, and also applies to Hungary’s own data protection laws.

Privacy News Online reports that specifically, authorities don’t need to provide notice about the gathering and storage of information if they are acting for the purposes of “coronavirus case prevention, recognition, exploration, as well as prevention of further spreading.”

Furthermore, citizens “no longer have the right to request access or erasure of their personal information and the government has given itself longer to respond to freedom of information requests.”

Lexology reports in greater detail that:

The government decree stipulates that data controllers’ measures under articles 15 to 22 of the GDPR as pertaining to personal data processed for the purpose of preventing, recognising and investigating the COVID-19 disease and stopping its spread are suspended until the termination of the state of emergency.

This is a concerning turn of events considering that the state of emergency has been made indefinite. Usually, a state of emergency would only last for fifteen days in Hungary and would need to be renewed by Parliament.

However, it was extended on 31st March and there is now no set end to it, allowing Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, to rule entirely by decree.

Suspending parts of GDPR in Hungary is therefore worrying to see. The law is relatively young and was viewed as a major step forward in protecting the rights and freedoms of EU citizens, but Hungary is already attempting to step back from it.

How Hungary’s relationship with GDPR will evolve after the pandemic has passed remains to be seen – but even then, there’s no guarantee that the declared state of emergency will come to an end.

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