Sensitive government phone records still easy to delete – investigation — Analysis
Despite criticism, the majority of UK departments still allow data on officials’ phones to be wiped after multiple incorrect password entries
A new investigation found that some departments allow this practice, months after MPs criticised the UK government for not allowing sensitive data to be removed from official telephones by repeatedly typing the wrong code.
According to documents obtained through Freedom of Information requests, 14 of 21 central government agency continue to follow the policy. Critics have argued that the policy is a way for ministers and bureaucrats to wipe potential evidence – such as text messages and other data – of a scandal.
It is possible that the number of departments could be greater, as neither the Ministry of Defence or the Northern Ireland Office will reveal whether they followed the policy. The news agency was told by four government agencies that the practice wasn’t allowed, and one said it didn’t have any information.
The House of Commons Treasury Committee gave the go-ahead to the government last year. “review its policies”To “prevent the deletion of Government records”After a cell phone was wiped, crucial information regarding the scandalous Greensill lobbying, which involved former Prime Minister David Cameron went missing.
In July, the UK Treasury admitted to resetting some 117 of its roughly 2,100 government-issued mobile phones during 2020 – including the work phone of its Permanent Secretary Tom Scholar – after multiple incorrect password entries. The Cabinet Office had deleted 153 mobile phones during that time.
Scholar’s missing phone records were highlighted after it emerged that between March and June 2020, Cameron had lobbied ministers, including Finance Minister Rishi Sunak, and officials for Covid scheme funds to go to the now-defunct financial company Greensill Capital.
In its report, the Commons committee raised concerns about data deletion being a “wider problem”He warned the government about the “wiping of information under these kind of circumstances could have the unfortunate consequence of leading some to suspect it to be deliberate.”
The PA reports that other than the Treasury Department, Cabinet Office and Department for Work and Pensions no agency with this policy reported exactly how many phones were wiped.
“Departments have been told this is wrong by the Treasury Select Committee – and you do have to wonder why so many persist,”Jo Maugham is the founder of Good Law Project, a watchdog group.