Michael Gove, the UK education secretary, used his private e-mail account to send messages to two members of his political staff and a civil servant. Further to guidance it published in December 2011, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has ruled that the communications had to be disclosed under a FOI request because they related to public business; the same rule would apply to text messages or other electronic communications.
The ICO rejected the argument that the e-mails were for political rather than governmental purposes; the role of a political adviser isn’t always purely political but may also (as here) have an ‘official’ character. Use of private channels for the conduct of public business was ‘a matter of concern to the Commissioner for a number of reasons’: good records management practices, data security, the integrity of the public record, effective compliance with access-toinformation obligations.
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