According to the Hungarian Civil code, the likeness of a person’s face – except in the case of public officials – can only be used with the permission of the person concerned. Although this could be interpreted in a broad, progressive manner, the courts have taken a narrow approach: as police officers are not public officials, if an image of their faces is published without their consent, the media provider is liable for damages. Lawyers arguing against the obligation to blur faces generally base their argumentation on the requirement of exercising public authority in a public manner. This means that persons carrying out their work on the mandate of citizens, for their benefit, and at their expense must do so in a recognizable and traceable manner. This opinion is shared by the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg: both courts have consistently upheld the view that persons exercising public authority have a narrower scope of privacy than average persons, and that in certain respects, public officials must tolerate more intrusion in their privacy. If media coverage is impeded by limits, the media is prevented from fulfilling one of its most fundamental roles: monitoring the exercise of government power. CivilMedia believes that in this type of disputes, it is not the Hungarian Civil Code that should be applied, but the Privacy Act (Act CXII of 2011). Accordingly, the likeness of a person’s face constitutes personal data which is public for reasons of public policy, as it is connected to the exercise of government power. Thus, the publication of data that is to be considered public on the basis of public interest cannot result in liability in civil law; as shown by its name, it is data which can be accessed and communicated by anyone. If a number of editors are challenged on these grounds, sooner or later, a defendant will end up before the court in Strasbourg, which will most likely rule against the Hungarian state.
You can read the full article in Hungarian here.