The Church of Scientology of Budapest, Hungary was closed off with police cars and cordons last Wednesday. There were police standing in front of the headquarters, and the investigators were going in and out. About thirty more locations were searched nationwide.
The National Data Protection and Information Authority has been investigating since December last year because of the fact that more people complained: the rights of the Scientologists’ data management practices could have been compromised.
A few days later, due to illegal data handling, the National Institute of Data Protection and Information (NAIH) imposed the maximum 20-20 million HUF (USD 250,000) fines on data processing for the Church of Scientology of Hungary and the central organization of the Church, announced the president of the authority on Friday’s press conference in Budapest.
Attila Péterfalvi, from the NAIH examination, said that the church and its central organization have been subject to official procedures since the beginning of December last year and found that they had violated
- their obligation to give prior warning,
- the purpose-bound data management principle,
- the principle of fair data management,
- the requirements of data security
- and unlawful data management was performed.
The authority has not yet encountered a similar breach of the law – he added. In addition to the fine, further unlawful data manipulation was prohibited.
The NAIH president recalled that he had been examining the data management of the Church and its central organization after receiving several complaints, based on which the case of unlawful data handling was highly suspected. On 27 and 7 December last year, the Authority held an on-site visit: 137 files and media were seized and further surveys were held.
Among the seized files were so-called PC files containing information about the lives of believers; there were ethical files in which reports of acts that were inadequate to the Church’s principles and which contained the documents of the Church’s internal justice; were correspondents related to believers, as well as dossiers with agreements, interviews, and tests with colleagues.
The NAIH investigation found that before the commencement of the services the Church does not provide adequate information, does not clearly indicate the data controlled, is unspecific about the purpose of data management, and the dossiers contain a wealth of personal and special data, but their handling needs to be more precise and the purpose more specific.
It was found that lack of information creates an “information dominance” on the side of the Church, which is an extreme violation of the right to protect the privacy of third parties and respect for their private lives.
The NAIH president drew attention to the fact that a dedicated data management principle is one of the most important safeguards and principles for the protection of personal data, and this is certainly violated by the Church’s and its central organization with “data collection” without purpose.
Regarding employee files, employees have to share a large amount of personal information, for example in their life questionnaire, for example, their sexual and friends relationships, and they are told to be as detailed as they can when filling out.
The NAIH president said: special data – such as data on health data, financial debt, political views – can not be accepted as data for employment qualification, so their inclusion is illegal. Ethics files and mailing dossiers have also found similar shortcomings by the authority.
The press conference of the authority began well after the announcement, as it was among the journalists who included Attila Miklovicz, the spokesperson of the Church, László Lange, the representative of the Human and Freedom, the Scientology of Hungary, and the lawyer of the Church. They – having failed to present their confirmation of their registration for the press conference – left the room at the orderof the organizers.
Before that Attila Miklovicz spoke about the authority trying to “destroy the Church of Scientology”. As he said, they came to the press conference to ask the NAIH president whether he was a part of an anti-Scientology event a few years ago, where he spoke, and if so, if he would feel biased. They also complained that they were not able to defend themselves substantively during the procedure. He indicated that during the press conference a demonstration was held in front of the NAIH building.
Attila Péterfalvi said that he considered the question of bias, and he also considered the question as a Data Protection Commissioner and believed that by evaluating his experiences in his personal activity, he could not be considered biased in any respect. Regarding the search of the National Investigation Bureau on Wednesday at the headquarters of the Church, he said he had no information on the launch of the police action, so he did not comment on it.
He said that the number of people involved was also taken into account in the imposition of fines, the names of some 2,200 people were included in the PC dossiers and ethical files, and 76,300 in the mailing dossier. The church may appeal to the court, against the decision of the authority, requesting a review of the administrative decision.
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