A joint investigation by the service providers and the authorities revealed that the text messages, which reached practically a tenth of Hungary’s population through an intermediary company, were ordered by the Austrian subsidiary of the DatAdat group, set up by former Socialist Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai and his secret service minister, Ádám Ficsor. (Read more here about the curious cast of characters behind DatAdat.)
The investigation also revealed that the database used for sending the massive campaign had been supplied by DatAdat, too.
The illegally obtained data is said to consist of downloaded phone numbers linked to names from Facebook profiles, and contact details extracted from banking and commercial databases.
That’s a major violation of Hungarian campaign regulations and an egregious breach of the EU’s GDPR, the law protecting personal data.
This explains why the campaign team sent out the text messages in question without any form of targeting or respect for the recipient’s political affiliation. This way, large number of right-wing sympathizers, several members of government and conservative public figures received short messages, often addressed to them by name.
But illicitly obtaining personal data and using it for political purposes is not DatAdat’s only alleged sin. Nor is it the first serious allegation of wrongdoing.
In recent weeks, it has surfaced that DatAdat has a long history of influencing political processes in Germany, Bulgaria and North Macedonia. They could have also been involved in helping Márki-Zay win the opposition primaries, by taking the personal details of Hungarians to Austria, where DatAdat experts are working on artificially boosting topics on social media, which are vital for the opposition.
If the reports are true – and there’s substantial evidence – this would constitute the largest incident of campaign fraud in Hungary since the fall of communism. I trust that the election observers now in country as part of the OSCE mission are paying close attention.