Diana McCarty on Fri, 13 Sep 96 02:48 METDST

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nettime: Private Data and Bombs


In a move that raises concerns about protecting privacy in the information age,
Internet providers in Hungary turned over to police investigators
confidential data about their subscribers.

Criminal investigators in the Komarom-Esztergom County Police Department
issued written requests to Internet providers in early August after a
grocery store assistant found an explosive device in a bottle of ketchup.

Police think the device might have been assembled by someone following a
bomb-making guide on the Internet.
Internet providers have complied reluctantly with the requests for the
names and addresses fo their subscribers in the K-Estergom region.

WHile Pronet Professional Internet Services handed over the name of its one
area subscriber, Managing director Robert Line said he hopes this is the
last such request he receives. "OUr position is to help the authorities,
but we also treat our users' information as confidential. " We wouldn't
have volunteered this information if we hadn't verified the request, and we
didn't give more than was

Computer magazine "Internetto" has asked the government's ombudsman's
office, which is an independent investigator, for an official opinion on
the case, claiming that the information requests show both ignorance about
the Internet and a disregard for the privacy of personal data in Hungary.

"In our opinion the police can't use this data for anything because a lot
of people can get access to the Internet without being subscribers," said
Valerie Horvath, administrative director of EU net Hungary, which provided
the names and addresses of its two K-Estergom subscribers. Horvath and Line
both said the Internet is not the only medium carrying bomb-making recipes

"The police should also check the holders of library cards, because the
same information id available down many other aveneues." Line said.

While Isys Hungary has no subscribers in the K-Estergom region, content
manager Steven Carlson said the police request raises questions about who
has the right to access personal information.

"In principle, I think the police have no right to ask us for this kind of
information, but in practice, I'd have to ask a lawyer because I don't know
what our rights are," Carlson said.

(keyed in quickly from the Budapest Sun)

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