The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has called for a review of how public officials use private messaging channels to conduct official business.
Private messaging channels include apps like WhatsApp as well as personal email accounts that have been linked to Security violations of the Ministry of Defenseand: Russian hackers steal trade discussion papers.
It comes as the ICO publishes the findings of a year-long investigation into how Health Department ministers handled the pandemic, which found “extensive use of private correspondence channels by ministers and staff”.
“Evidence more widely available in the public domain also suggests that this practice is commonly seen across much of the rest of government and pre-pandemic,” the report added.
The investigation found that important information about the government’s response COVID-19 An epidemic can be lost or insecurely managed due to the use of messaging applications.
Earlier this year, Lord Evans, then chairman of the Public Life Standards Commission, said the government had shown “carelessness” in its treatment of standards and benchmarks. criticized ministers for conducting official business over WhatsApp.
The use of private messaging channels during the pandemic “brought some real benefits at a time when the UK was facing exceptional pressures”, according to the ICO.
However, they also “presented risks to the confidentiality, integrity and availability of data sharing,” the ICO report said.
In particular, it found that the Department of Health’s “policies and procedures were at odds with Cabinet Office policy on the use of private email… and had some significant gaps based on how key individuals work in practice.
“This presented a risk to the effective processing of requests for information in accordance with the relevant code of practice [the Freedom of Information Act (FOI Act)]”.
The correspondence channels used were “legitimate”.
The data watchdog, which is responsible for enforcing the FA Act, has issued a formal order to the Department of Health demanding it improve the way it responds to requests for information.
Last year the government denied creating a Clearing House unit to profile journalists and thwart FOI requests following a letter from newspaper editors demanding action.
The department was also reprimanded and told to “improve its processes and procedures around the handling of personal information through private correspondence channels and to ensure that information is kept securely”.
“To ensure that wider lessons are learned, the ICO is also calling on the government to set up a separate review into the use of these channels,” the document said.
The spokesperson of the government said. “This report makes it clear that the correspondence channels used by ministers and the department were legitimate.
“Ministers and officials had to work at an extraordinary pace during the pandemic, and the use of modern technology was necessary to deliver critical public services that saved lives, such as building a testing system from scratch and our world-leading vaccine program.
“The government is committed to accountability and transparency, and we are already reviewing our policy on the use of non-corporate communication channels.
“We will be looking closely at the ICO’s report while recognizing the continued benefits of using digital forms of communication,” the spokesperson added.
WhatsApp in Westminster. Watchdog calls for review of officials’ use of private messaging apps | Science and technology news
Source WhatsApp in Westminster. Watchdog calls for review of officials’ use of private messaging apps | Science and technology news