back to article DfE probed over Gmail use for official business

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 …


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  1. NG

    "..from people who I know who they are."

    So the special advisor in the Department for Education can't do grammar then. Or IT. Or common sense.

  2. Gordan


    In banking we have rules and regulations that state that all email (internal or external) must be archived and kept for an extended period of time. Perhaps it is time to put the same requirements on government communications?

    And speaking of Google, they already provide email services to banks (my previous client is one of their customers), with all the required compliance features (including automatic archiving of copies of all email). So providing complete records of any such communication exchanges should not be a problem if required by an approved FOI request.

    1. cmaurand

      Re: Compliance?

      Google archives everything and they'll give up both ends of the conversation to the government for the asking.

  3. xyz

    Typical Twat 2.0 SPAD

    This may look dodgy, but I'll bet that the idiot who started all this off couldn't connect to gmail via his government pc and has started using his mobile so he can be "of import" at all hours, completely forgetting of course about anything FOI or protectively marked. This is typical of the type of tossers that attach themselves to "great office" these days. Makes for damn good headlines though! I love it when twatdom hits reality.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Multilevel fail

    Starting with failure to understand "role addresses" and "email aliases". I'd ask "how hard can it be?" but the answer is too clear already: "Too hard for policy wonks."

    The obvious consequence is that now the department is no longer in control of its email, not even through outsourcing contracts, and is thus unable to meet various of its obligations. That this somehow is not obvious to those in charge is perhaps understandable but really no longer excusable. It's really time and past time they at least act like they understand this sort of thing.

    Apropos, isn't this in the remit of that ex-grauniad new chief of govt IT guy?

  5. LPF

    Nope the reason this happned is that becuase labour installed so many of their people in the civil service, that if the government used the internal email system, they might as well just CC labour into every email they produce.

    Send your thanks to Nu Labour we now have a partisan civil service!

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      You mean the Civil service aren't all Tory any more?

      'Cause I'm pretty sure that they used to be. How sad that those days are gone. Not it isn't, and anyway I'm not persuaded that they are.

      1. Code Monkey

        Actually there will be a lot of Labour-supporting civil servants left. The "neutral" civil service was killed off by Thatcher in the 80s.

    2. David Neil

      That's quite a claim your making. Any evidence to back it up?

    3. cmaurand

      "Nope the reason this happned is that becuase labour installed so many of their people in the civil service, that if the government used the internal email system, they might as well just CC labour into every email they produce."

      Not likely.

  6. Anonymous Coward 101

    I know that I find using Gmail a far nicer experience than using my crappy Outlook based system at work. Reasons include:

    - the spam filter works;

    - I can log in anywhere;

    - it is easier and quicker to search for old emails.

    I believe Gove and others should be allowed to use Gmail, provided they know about the importance of keeping old emails and of using proper passwords. Truthfully, Outlook is rubbish.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @ AC 13:48

      Perhaps you should have a word with your IT team?

      We use Outlook/Exchange at my work and:

      The spam filter works pretty damn well, i get < 3 a month which all end up in the junk folder.

      I can log in anywhere in the world on any internet connected device

      Search is pretty much instant and accurate.

      The same goes for most friends i have in other businesses who have implemented mail services correctly.

      Actually no, why take the problem to task with what sounds like an inept IT team (or one that can't be arsed to sort it out) when you can have a good old bash at MS? Perhaps if you do, they'll switch to Notes/Domino then you'll really have something to moan about!

      1. nichomach

        "Let them eat...


        1. Gordon 10 Silver badge


          The mention of groupwise caused a feeling not unlike a herd of cattle trampling my grave.

      2. Sam Liddicott

        But MS OTHER strategy

        But MS keep trying to make Outlook Web Access a really poor experience unless you also use an MS browser.

        It is unpleasant to use, so people were just "not using explorer" are now "not using exchange" as well, and google wins.


        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @ Sam

          I use OWA quite happily with both FF6/7 on PCs and safari on an iShiny.

        2. Hyphen

          Exchange 2010

          Clearly you've not played with OWA in the latest version of Exchange.

          ...we're actually pushing for an upgrade to this so we can start doing away with Windows in some areas. The web client (even under Linux and Firefox) behaves so incredibly like Outlook it's unreal.

      3. Anonymous Coward 101

        @AC 14:08

        Yes, wouldn't competent IT be a good thing? 'Can't be arsed' sums up our IT team in our office, and I'm not just moaning around. The spam filter we use is so old it does not, I believe, use Bayesian filtering. Aside from e-mail, saving large spreadsheets, or copying stuff on the network takes an age because of some stupid configuration issue that nobody can be arsed to fix.

        But I stopped caring ages ago, so what does it matter?

  7. OffBeatMammal

    Knighthood or slap on wrist?

    so what's the upshot of this deliberate breach of policy going to be? A slap on the wrist (unlikely, or if it happens just a public slap that's soon mended in private) or just promote him and give him a knighthood for innovation in civil service?

    the 6 year old son of a friend of mine once referred to that breed as Snivil Serpants ... can't say I disagree


    "private email system"

    But GMail isn't a "private email system".

    Google openly scan the content of email for advertising opportunities, and presumably as forced PATRIOTs, wouldn't hesitate to provide foreign intelligence about UK.Gov to their own Government.

    What on earth were these idiots thinking?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "private email system"

      "What on earth were these idiots thinking?"

      And therein lies the problem. Idiots rarely think. Govt idiots think even less.

  9. Northwald

    Wont be long before gmail is hacked or these accounts exposed and they will get on their high horses about security.

  10. Dave 3


    These were not government business. These emails were all party political, so they should not be using state email/resources.

    FT hack playing party politics.

    1. Is it me?

      Not wholly true.

      If it's purely party, then should be used, but if there is any element of government business discussed then it should be internal, and subject to GPMS marking, which, if not for public consumption would be RESTRICTED or PROTECT. Remember once you are in power, you are the government.

      Disclosure of such information on an unclassified system isn't just a problem of FOIA, but also the official secrets act. If any civil servernt or government contractor was this cavilier they would be sacked.

      1. Dave 3

        Whether or not they use email addresses is up to them.

        The point is, they should not be using addresses for this stuff, so they didn't.

  11. James Micallef Silver badge


    "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."


    "I don't want anyone anywhere outside my co-conspirators to ever know what misdeeds I am up to, and I'll be damned if I allow any FOIA oversight for the peasants to know what me and my fellow feudal lords are up to"

  12. Colin Millar

    But shirley

    You don't need to make an FOI request if it is on Gmail as the ease of access for everyman and his dog to gmail accounts must classify them as public domain.

  13. h4rm0ny

    Not illegal?

    Well it bloody should be then. Is it right that copies of a government minister's correspondence should be sent to an American company that explicitly monitors the contents? They should be using encrytion for all emails where possible and it should be handled by the government's own IT service. Not because you feel like signing up for things on the web.

    As to "explain when I meet you", that's obviously because he doesn't want to put the reason in an email where it might be found. I.e. if it's not through official channels, there's a greater chance of it not coming to light through Freedom of Information requests. A bit like, well, how we can't get hold of his emails through Freedom of Information requests.

  14. Mark Dowling

    End-running FOIA? That will end well

    If he doesn't want to use his government account, he need not cash his government paycheque. (And yes I know it's all EFT now but we don't have a new phrase for that)

  15. All names Taken

    butt shoorley hoshifer?

    Surely anyone can make a mistake even if it was a mere communications oversight?

    Our illustrious civil servants may be miffed that they cannot access gmail or see the politico's (sorry bout the postrophe) correspondence?

    Wilder things like DWP costing nigh on £3 billion, fire service hosing millions seem far more important n'est pas?

    Interim conclusion: storm in a tea cup, servants to ensure that all ministerial and politico correspondence to be left secure and unread by civil servants unless a request per inscident has been made in triplicate within 7 days of the 'hot' email being received and requested.

    (No forensics puh-leez that is for the police no?)

  16. All names Taken

    the secretary's minder might be miffed

    as title

  17. kain preacher

    Whats the big deal

    Gmail will make the e-mails available to the government for free. Then the gov will make the emails available to any one the wants them. The gov will be so nice has to hand you these email to you on paper only. All for the low low price of 30p per word. Oh oh I left out that since the gov is going green they will print it using 3 point font to save paper.

    Hey wait why are you laughing at me ? I can see Russia from my back yard .

  18. cmaurand

    Let's see

    not using DfE or accounts means that he has something to hide. Only takes email from people he knows on gmail means he doesn't have an open mind and is paranoid. I never use my gmail account except for testing other email accounts. If he wasn't in Britain, I'd say he was a member of the US Congress.

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