How Drones Help Transparency Activists To See Things The Hungarian Government Wants To Hide

from the not-just-about-dealing-out-death dept

It’s remarkable how quickly drones have become a familiar part of the modern world. Like most tools, they can be used for good and evil, but it tends to be the latter that is highlighted when it comes to drones. In the last few days, it was widely reported that President Trump has given the CIA power to launch drone strikes against suspected terrorists, in addition to being able to use the technology to locate them. Dealing death from the skies may be the most dramatic application of drones, but there are plenty of other, more benign, uses, even if they receive less attention. For example, activists in Hungary have been deploying them in a variety of innovative ways in order to bolster transparency and openness in a country where these are increasingly under threat. That’s because the country’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, is a self-confessed believer in the “illiberal state,” which Wikipedia describes as follows:

a governing system in which, although elections take place, citizens are cut off from knowledge about the activities of those who exercise real power because of the lack of civil liberties. It is not an “open society”.

The Hungarian organization Atlatszo.hu wants to reconnect citizens with that knowledge about those in power:

Established in 2011, atlatszo.hu — “atlatszo” means transparent in Hungarian ? produces investigative reports, accepts information from whistleblowers, files freedom of information requests, and commences freedom of information lawsuits in cases where its requests are refused.

Atlatszo.hu operates a Tor-based anonymous whistleblowing platform (Magyarleaks), a freedom of information request generator for the general public (Kimittud), a crowdsourced bribe tracker to report everyday corruption anonymously (Fizettem), and an independent blogging platform for other NGOs and independent media.

Atlatszo.hu uses a wide range of modern technologies in its work, and that also includes drones. Here’s a post on Open Society Foundations from a few months back explaining why eyes in the sky are a powerful tool for taking a look at things governments would rather keep to themselves:

Through drone footage, we’ve revealed the hidden assets of government politicians and pro-government oligarchs, including castles acquired by companies tied to the son-in-law of Hungary’s prime minister. Such concrete signs of personal enrichment — which, in many cases, can only be filmed from the air — give citizens a clear picture of the corruption and inequality that is all around them.

At the same time, drones are useful for throwing into relief the power of civil society. In 2014, we captured aerial footage of the protests against the government’s internet tax.

Recording protests from the air is important because it allows more accurate estimates of crowd sizes to be made, which are also harder to challenge given the detailed footage that goes well beyond what is possible to gather on the ground. There’s a video showing this and other aspects of Atlatszo.hu’s work, mostly in Hungarian, but with English subtitles, that gives a good idea of the huge potential for using drones in this domain — and of the pushback activists are already receiving from the deeply unhappy authorities as a result. As drones become ever-cheaper and ever-more powerful, that tension seems likely to increase.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

Filed Under: , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “How Drones Help Transparency Activists To See Things The Hungarian Government Wants To Hide”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
20 Comments
orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: I bet these "activists" are funded by George Soros attempting another "color" revolution.

Apparently Soros runs half the world. Nobody opposing the various flavors of social and political far right ever had an idea without Soros. And all facts are invalidated because where the information came from, no matter how verifiable.

Not sure also what is wrong with anti-authoritarians protesting and resisting self-admitted authoritarian governments.

So the other half of the story is what “you bet”. Which should always be given equal time to facts.

Texpat (profile) says:

Re: Re: I bet these "activists" are funded by George Soros attempting another "color" revolution.

It is an undeniable fact the current autocratic regime in Hungary is no friend of democratic ideals and classic liberalism. But then, neither is George Soros and his surrogate Open Society Foundations found in at least 70 different nations around the world.

It would benefit Hungary, Soros’ native state, and the world if both Viktor Orban and the OSF would disappear.

I think it is great that Atlatszo.hu and its affiliates exist to give Orban government fits, but I really lament the fact Soros had to be the funding source. Soros is a megalomaniacal anarchist opposed to nation-states, borders, boundaries and is obsessed with taking down the USA. His anti-liberty dystopian worldview is not something he conceals. Soros to Newsweek in 2006:

“The main obstacle to a stable and just world order is the United States.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: I bet these "activists" are funded by George Soros attempting another "color" revolution.

Many hours ago I posted a rebuttal to this that included the full context of that quote. The system said it would be reviewed and posted shortly. It has not.

Making posting into a game of chance is a good way to discourage thoughtful posting.

Anonymous Coward says:

"The main obstacle to a stable and just world order is the United States. This is a harsh — indeed, for me, painful — thing to say, but unfortunately I am convinced it is true. The United States continues to set the agenda for the world in spite of its loss of influence since 9/11, and the Bush administration is setting the wrong agenda . The Bush agenda is nationalistic: it emphasizes the use of force and ignores global problems whose solution requires international cooperation. The rest of the world dances to the tune the United States is playing, and if that continues too long we are in danger of destroying our civilization. Changing the attitude and policies of the United States remains my top priority."

"We must recognize that as the dominant power in the world we have a special responsibility. In addition to protecting our national interests, we must take the leadership in protecting the common interests of humanity. I go into some detail as to what that entails."

"Mankind’s power over nature has increased cumulatively while its ability to govern itself has not kept pace. There is no other country that can take the place of the United States in the foreseeable future. If the United States fails to provide the right kind of leadership our civilization may destroy itself. That is the unpleasant reality that confronts us."

— The Age of Fallibility: The Consequences of the War on Terror (2006)


I think it is great that Atlatszo.hu and its affiliates exist to give Orban government fits, but I really lament the fact Soros had to be the funding source.

WTF? Some anonymous person makes an accusation and you immediately accept it as factual. Exactly what I’ve come to expect from soros conspiracy fantasists.

Anonymous Coward says:

“it was widely reported that President Trump has given the CIA power to launch drone strikes against suspected terrorists, in addition to being able to use the technology to locate them.”

Oh, the CIA didn’t have the ability to launch drone strikes against terrorists before? I did not know that. I guess all those articles talking about how drone strikes are getting people in Afghanistan and Pakistan to hate America must have been fake news.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I think the mention of this in the article was slanted as it doesn’t really add to anything, yet seeks to make a point. After 9/11 the CIA could do this, then Obama moved it to a joint CIA/Defense dept. operation. This new move will enable the defense dept. to continue to conduct strikes (which will probably increase) while allowing the CIA to conduct strikes covertly on high value targets.

Mathew King (profile) says:

I wonder how the and a bit frustrated. The drones will become privacy-invading devices in coming future. I have seen such small drones that are tiny in size and very hard to locate then in sky. These mini drones will become micro or even nano size some day. then we have to find some way to locate and recognize them. see such mini drones at quadcopterr.com

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...