Feeds

Destroy your old emails for Xmas, UK gov tells civil servants

Bracing new 3 month policy

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Security for virtualized datacentres

Just weeks before the UK's Freedom of Information Act comes into force, the Cabinet Office has told staff to delete emails that are more than three months old, as of today (20th December). Could this possibly be the same Government that is pushing for a 12 month electronic data retention dragnet throughout Europe? Yes, it could.

It could also be the same Government which just last week lost a minister with the help of a civil service email that was sent over 18 months ago. The fax that the email drew attention to had been destroyed (contrary to the rules), so if we hadn't known about the email because it had been deleted David Blunkett might still be with us. But that wouldn't have happened, because the Cabinet Office assures us that most emails would be copied to a number of officials, and ministers' private offices would ensure that important records are kept.

If it's important someone wise, upstanding and diligent will have stored it, oh yes. The 'nothing to do with the FOIA' claim is similarly convincing.

The measure is ostensibly being brought in because government computer systems are becoming overloaded - not, as was generally thought, because they're wrecked systems presided over by imbeciles, but because people's inboxes are too full. The wrecked nature of the systems is however highlighted by the humorous procedure proposed for retaining emails that might have to be disclosed later. Civil servants (using their own discretion) are instructed to print and file them. In, one presumes, filing cabinets. In October the Cabinet Office told MPs it was unable to say how many information and communications technology specialists it employed, and that it was unable to say how much it had paid the 267 companies and consultancies it had retained since 2001. One begins to grasp why it might not know these things, but has it looked in the filing cabinets?

In addition to starring (or not) in the return of paper-based government administration, deleted emails may also be stored on back-up systems. But in the absence of any policy or rules governing their operation, or even their existence, retrieving important information which may or may not exist from them is likely to prove impossible. One cannot help noticing the striking similarity between the Government's approach and that of a certain large company.

For Government, this simply isn't good enough. At the moment an opt-in system of retention is being imposed as a baseline, and without adequate supervision and oversight that system needs to be underpinned by a more extensive and workable automated archiving system which absolutely removes the possibility of cover-ups. The fact that the Government isn't doing that illustrates how little it grasps about the proper functioning of the systems it claims it's embracing. And if it has its way on retention, it could be sending people to prison for running IT systems this way. ®

Related Stories:

UK.gov to impose data retention dragnet on ISPs
Brussels tables data retention law
EC calls for rethink of data retention proposals

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
The 'fun-nification' of computer education – good idea?
Compulsory code schools, luvvies love it, but what about Maths and Physics?
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.