Acts and Regulations
Access to public records
Relevant regulations Download
The legal background of access to records
Access to public records preserved in the National Archives of Hungary is regulated by the Archives Act (1995. LXVI., Amendment 1997. CXL., Enacting Clauses 19 and 20/1198.[V.13.] MKM), the Data Protection Act (1992. LXIII.) and the Privacy Act (1995. LXV.).
According to the Archives Act (hereafter AA), any natural person may, upon preliminary application for access submitted to the archives, have free access to archival records held in public archives.
Under the regulations of the AA (Section 22) access to public records is limited by a dual time restriction system:
- records created before 2 May 1990 are made available to the public 15 years after their creation
- records created after 1 May 1990 are made available to the public 30 years after their creation
Some records are available without restriction from the date of transfer. Examples of such records include published materials and records (only) containing information of public interest. (See also the Data Protection Act [hereafter DPA] Sections 19 and 20)
It is possible to have access to records before the 15 or 30 year period expires. The record creator agency may allow access to records closed under the terms of the 30-year rule. In the case of records closed under the terms of the 15-year rule an additional permission of an ad hoc scientific advisory board is also required (AA Section 23).
Access to public records containing personal data is subject to special consideration. Since restrictions related to this type of records cause the most problems for researchers, it is worth examining the question in detail. According to the DPA (Section 2), personal data are "data which can be associated with a particular natural person (hereafter person concerned), the conclusion, which can be drawn from the data, relating to the person concerned". It is apparent that this definition covers a remarkably wide range of data. However, a particular group of data (special data) is protected by the DPA to a greater extent and, therefore, are listed separately as follows: racial origin, national, nationality and ethnic status, political opinion or party affiliation, religious or other conviction, health condition, abnormal addiction, sexual life and criminal record.
Access to public records containing personal data is regulated by the AA separately (Section 24): "[...] records containing personal data shall be disclosed for access by anyone thirty years after the year of the data subject's decease. If the year of death is unknown, protection period shall be ninety years after the birth of the subject, and when neither the date of birth nor of death is known, it shall be sixty years after the creation of the record held by the archives."
Nevertheless, records specified above shall also be open for access before the expiry of protection period if
- the subject, or after his death any heir or close relative of his, has consented to the research upon the request of the researcher or
- research is required for scientific purposes – provided that the thirty or fifteen years have already expired – and the researcher attaches a statement of support issued by an institute or body performing public duties and scientific research in accordance with its designated purpose, granted on the basis of the detailed research proposal of the researcher. The researcher shall sign a written declaration accepting the limitations on handling and usage of the acquired or collected personal data.
- research can be carried out – at the applicant\\\'s own expense – through an anonymized copy. Anonymization means the creation of a copy in which the archives made personal data illegible.
Besides personal data, the presence of state secrets and office secrets in records can also extend the length of the closure period. The Privacy Act (hereafter PA) provides exact definition of the concept of state secret and office secret, establishes the sphere of those qualified to make such classification, orders the regular revision of classification and indicates the legal and natural persons who are entitled to access to classified data. The Supplement of the PA contains the detailed list of state secret categories indicating the longest possible validity of classification of every category respectively (maximum 90 years). For access to records containing classified data the permission of the classifier is necessary.
As an exception, under the terms of the Act on Credit Institutions and Financial Enterprises (1996. CXII. Sections 50 and 55), any trade or bank secrets – at present – must be kept confidential without any time limitation, and no exceptions can be made neither for private persons nor for scientific researchers.
Access to records not considered public records may be limited by conditions specified by the agency or natural person handing them over. Access to or duplication of records can be denied by the archives if the physical condition of the records demands it (AA Section 25). Another restriction serving the purposes of preservation is that records having a microfilm or other copy may only be accessed by means of these copies.