Hungary fears police violation of privacy on the Internet

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BUDAPEST -- Concerns have been raised in Hungary over police violation of the privacy of Internet subscribers after several service providers supplied personal data about their members to a police investigation.

The providers reluctantly turned over the details to co- operate with police inquiries over an explosive device suspected to have been made using bomb-manufacturing guidelines found on the Internet.

"It's not in our interest to champion the (privacy) cause over this issue," says Robert Line, managing director of ProNet. Internet providers were only asked to turn over names and addresses of subscribers in one county of Hungary. Mr. Line says he would object if requests were frequent or if he was asked to turn over personal data on all ProNet subscribers. Hungary's Internet providers view subscriber information as extremely confidential. They also agree that the police's request for information shows a basic misunderstanding of the Internet. The information highway is open to "positive and negative" information, says Mr. Line. Plus, there are Internet centers in Hungary where users can log on without subscribing to an Internet service.

"The Internet is like any major city with seedy areas where minors and other individuals should not tread," says Mr. Line. "But that makes up a small portion of the overall information available on the Internet."

Copyright September 1996, Crain Communications Inc.

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