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Hungarians report they can’t unsubscribe from gov’t information email list

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Following media reports that the government’s vaccine information email list has begun sending more and more information about governmental achievements instead of vaccine-related news, readers have written in to comment that they cannot unsubscribe from the list.

Vaccination in Hungary originally required people to first register through the government’s “Vaccine Info” website, which also gave them an extra option to sign up for regular email updates about vaccine availability and other presumably-related topics.

Back in December 2020, Telex expressed concerns that the privacy agreement that users consented to when signing up for this list was too general, and could allow the government to use it for non-vaccine purposes if it so wished.

However, the Government Information Center, headed by Minister Antal Rogán in the Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office, sent the news site a statement at that time which appeared to assuage these concerns:

We want to ensure that registrants have the opportunity to stay informed about the vaccine until they are notified of their vaccination date. The second consent allows this to be possible, subject to strict data protection rules. As in recent months, general information tasks related to the epidemic are being carried out by the Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office, as indicted in provisions in the privacy notice.

In the light of recent media reports, Telex contacted the office again about the matter, but the Cabinet Office responded that their actions were within the bounds of the law and gave no response regarding the apparent discrepency between their original stated intent and the content of the emails now sent to subscribers.

“I’ve tried to unsubscribe 6 times”

In theory, subscribers should be able to stop getting these emails anytime they wish through a legally-required notice that informs readers how to unsubscribe. Indeed, the vaccine information newsletter does include a statement at the bottom of all of its emails that reads:

If you wish to unsubscribe from this newsletter, please send an email to leiratkozas.kormanytajekoztato@mk.gov.hu. In this event, the data controller will delete your email from the register.

In practice, however, it doesn’t seem to be that simple. Several readers wrote into Telex with comments like the folowing:

“The unsubscribe method mentioned at the end of the article doesn’t work. I’ve now sent my 4th unsubscribe letter in the past few days, as the first 3 had no effect.”

“I asked them to unsubscribe my email address at the end of August, yet I still get the government propaganda mentioned in the article.”

“I’ve tried to unsubscribe 6 times, but have been getting them ever since.”

“Regarding adherence to ‘strict privacy rules,’ I would like to point out that months ago (specifically in April 2021) I tried to unsubscribe from this newsletter following the steps provided at the bottom of the email, but I have been receiving them nonstop since then, most recently just this week.”

Of course, these individual anecdotes are not necessarily indicative of every person’s experience. However, they do suggest that in at least a few cases there appears to be a problem getting off the list, perhaps due to a technical error.

Telex reached out to the Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office again to clarify if there are problems with the list’s method of unsubscribing, but the article has not been updated with any response from the agency.

(Hopefully there are no similar problems for those who wish to unsubscribe from the Hungarian Politics newsletter!)

[Telex][Photo: Photo by Elisa Ventur on Unsplash]

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