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Case Update

3 reasons the Government shouldn’t use private communication channels

21st March 2022

On Tuesday we’ll be in Court over Ministers’ persistent use of private communication channels to conduct official Government business. Here’s three reasons why we think this is an issue:

When Ministers use unofficial communication channels for Government business it becomes harder for journalists, campaign groups and the public to access information using Freedom of Information Requests or through the course of litigation. Phones can be replaced or messages erased, and information is lost forever.

The Public Records Act states that the Government has a responsibility to ensure that public records are preserved. When Ministers rely on unofficial communication channels they risk creating information blackholes.

There are real security concerns when private communication channels are used. The Government’s own Security of Government Business policy clearly states that Ministers should “not use [their] personal devices, email and communications applications for Government business…” and that personal IT will “not be as secure” as Government devices.

Ministers’ chronic use of private communication channels encourages and perpetuates a culture of secrecy and unaccountability, and risks our national security. So why is it that Ministers are choosing to ignore their own rules and conducting Government business over personal communications channels?

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This article is part of our Private emails, public accountability? case

Government Ministers have been using private email accounts to conduct official business. This was the case throughout the pandemic, when Boris Johnson and others were making important, costly decisions. So far our legal action to challenge the practice hasn’t succeeded, but we’re not giving up. We’re now seeking an appeal hearing in the Supreme Court.

See more about this case