February 5th, 2014

Register of voters’ data for campaigns must be reported, says data protection authority

Election candidates and nominating organisations need not report about campaigns to collect signatures to the data protection authority but they must inform the authority if they intend to keep a register of voters’ data for campaign purposes, the National Authority for Data Protection and Freedom of Information said on Wednesday.

The parliamentary election and campaign are events of special importance from the point of data protection because parties, nominating organisations and candidates receive within a short period of time the personal details of millions of voters, said a statement by Attila Peterfalvi, the authority’s head.

The authority must keep in mind that the personal details of citizens must be protected. But at the same time it acknowledges that the parties and nominating organisations have an interest in managing data about them, the statement added.

The new election procedures law approved last year introduced several changes, largely reducing the risk of abuse of data. A new element is that any citizen can give his or her recommendation to more than one candidate and fewer recommendations are needed than earlier for a candidate to run.

Another change is that all recommendation forms must show details about the person collecting the signatures, including name and signature, which guarantees that the collection of signatures is traceable and the person can be identified if any abuses are reported.

Peterfalvi highlighted the importance of respecting the privacy of voters, noting that recommendation forms must not be copied and the personal details of voters offering their signatures on the forms must not be made public.

Only those citizens can be contacted by phone who have made their numbers public. At the same time, addresses listed in phone registers must not be used for campaign purposes, Peterfalvi said.

Automated phone calls are acceptable only if using publicly available numbers and not machine-generated numbers, he added.

The candidates and nominating organisations must request the authority’s approval if they want to keeping a register of the data they manage, the statement said.

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