Feeds

DfE probed over Gmail use for official business

Whitehall wonk: 'I will only answer things that come from Google accounts'

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

Education Secretary Michael Gove was under fire this morning after it was revealed that his department used private email systems for official business that – it is claimed – included sensitive information.

Officials at the Information Commissioner's Office have written to the Department for Education (DfE) asking for more details.

The ICO waded in after a Freedom of Information Act-backed investigation by the FT revealed that Gove's chief political aide had said in February this year that he had effectively abandoned his DfE and conservative.com email accounts in favour of Google's Gmail.

The newspaper claimed that email traffic showed that Gove and his advisors had used private Gmail addresses to carry out official government business.

Civil servants were consequently unable to retrieve such correspondence under the FOIA, enforced by the ICO, when requested, added the FT.

As a special advisor to Gove, Dominic Cummings wrote to Tory party officials and other wonks on 24 February and explicitly stated that he was using Google's service for all email correspondence.

"I will not answer any further emails to my official DfE account or from conservatives.com,” he wrote.

"I will only answer things that come from Gmail accounts from people who I know who they are. I suggest that you do the same in general but that's obviously up to you guys – I can explain in person the reason for this."

The paper noted that it's not illegal for ministers and Whitehall gophers to use such methods of communication for their work. However, the FOIA makes it clear that such usage should be disclosed.

Seven FOIA requests to the education department asking for checks on named private accounts drew a blank because the information was not held on the DfE's systems.

The FT also highlighted Section 77 of the FOIA that covers the "offence of altering etc. records with intent to prevent disclosure". If such a law is breached, it carries a financial penalty of up to £5,000.

DfE permanent secretary Sir David Bell said he believed Gove and his advisors had acted "within the law". Gove and his advisors declined to comment. ®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
'Blow it up': Plods pop round for chat with Commonwealth Games tweeter
You'd better not be talking about the council's housing plans
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
Adam Afriyie MP: Smart meters are NOT so smart
Mega-costly gas 'n' 'leccy totting-up tech not worth it - Tory MP
Yes, Australia's government SHOULD store comms metadata
Not because it's a good idea but because it already operates the infrastructure and processes to do it well
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.