back to article Whitehall: Govt-related private email, texts will be uncloaked

Messages in private email accounts, text messages and other messaging systems can be disclosed under freedom of information (FOI) laws if they relate to public business, the FOI regulator has confirmed. The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has published new guidance [6-page 156KKB PDF] making it clear that FOI laws …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps they need to be reminded that they work for us, not the other way around.

  2. pig

    Information Admin: Minister, do you have anything in your private email accounts, or any text messages, which relate to this request?

    Minister: No

    Information Admin: Thank you Minister.

    1. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge

      Followed shortly by...

      Newspaper: Did you {txt | email | privately communicate} with The Minister about this matter?

      Disgruntled lobbyist: Certainly. Here's my Sent Items....

      Plod: Good afternoon, Sir. May we have a word?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Followed shortly by...

        Director of public prosecutions: We have determined it is not in the public interest, and there is not a realistic chance of conviction, to pursue this matter...

  3. Geoff Ballinger
    Big Brother

    An interesting corolory

    Will this sort of FOI issue support public sector employers in coercing employees to give them access to their private email and other communication accounts? What if the employee declares that they only use their business account for business purposes?

    Interesting balance between the public's rights under FOI, and the rights of public sector employees to have a private life!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Give me your password or spend time in the cells...

      Exactly what I was thinking Geoff (employees having to give up private passwords).

      What happens if they don't ?

      What happens if they don't know the password ?

      We are all assuming of course, that big brother doesn't have some backdoor they could use before 'requiring' (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 made it an offence with withhold passwords and access keys) rather than just requesting....


    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "coercing employees to give them access to their private email and other communication accounts"

      well about the only proportionate response to APT advanced persistent threats in the Enterprise LAN is to monitor each and every packet with light or deep packet inspection. This will/can then indicate to your employer everything that you type.

      I'm using Certificate Patrol on mozilla-FF to map/understand my current environment and to highlight any changes in HTTPS that may occur, should my beloved employer be MITM'ing me. To give them more data to investigate I'm considering using random generators such as TrackMeNot and the other similar devices.

      Public sector employees have the right to be private at home, probably

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Since Nixon, all presidental communications of all kinds have been stored.

    Don't see why they can't do it here.

  5. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    There are schmucks and there are schmucks and some are just too stupid for high office

    And what do El Regers think of the actions of this Presidential hopeful? Right dodgy and unnecessary if not trying to hide anything probably criminal and certainly not anything a valid public servant would do think to do and then try to move into the White House where all secrets are known and logged for dumb libraries ...........

    How long is it going to take for everyone to realise, that the days of secrets being important and being able to wield power and control, are long gone, and to have any you would not wish to be known are a vast area of personal and public weakness which will be exploited ruthlessly.

    Wake up and smell the Cocoa and Java, folks ....... the times have a'changed and are raging and rampant.

    This partly political broadbandcast was not brought to you by Dr Ron Paul.

  6. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    In the future...

    ...all policy-making will be conducted in verbal (un-minuted) stand-up meetings in random locations, so that people can speak and think freely.

    The intellectual standard of policy-making in government is already dangerously low. One could make a fair case that it is already *too* low to cope with the technological level of society. If you make it even harder for the few remaining intelligent people in government to actually consider alternatives without getting subsequently ruined by some FoI request, you basically switch off government and hand over the reins of power to those who aren't so encumbered. That would be big business and foreign governments then. Thanks a bunch.

    Alternatively ... in the future even un-recorded conversations will be subject to FoI requests. Since they aren't recorded, we'll have to trust one of the participants to spill the beans, but ... we have ways of making you talk.

    Get out of my head you bastards. Whilst you're at it, get out of the heads of the people running my country for me. I do not want government by FoI-friendly sound-bite.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      You know it is just too true to be wrong.

      "I do not want government by FoI-friendly sound-bite." ....Ken Hagan Posted Monday 19th December 2011 14:56 GMT

      Too bloody late with intelligent request, Ken. That is exactly what numpty politics today offers clueless administrations everywhere, which is why everything is failing at an exponential rate.

  7. All names Taken

    Seems reasonable.

    When using an employers email system to send emails all those emails are belonging to the employer.

    The employee does not own the email and the employer is responsible for content of its email messages sent by its email system.

    Rather than: one email address per employee

    I prefer

    few email addresses in which individual employees may be authorised to email correspondence for and an behalf of named individual from the named individuals email account.

    So, for example, all the employees at UKs Whitehall will correspond emails for and on behalf of the PM (arguably royalty? OHMS?)

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