Information Watchdog Probes Deleted Emails Claim

A couple of articles followed-up the Times story last week about the Cabinet Office’s brutal policy of destroying email in advance of the Freedom of Information Act.

Andrew Woodcock, the Press Association’s Political Correspondent, wrote a piece that appeared in The Scotsman.

Information Watchdog Probes Deleted Emails Claim
Tue 21 Dec 2004

The watchdog charged with monitoring Whitehall compliance with the Freedom of Information Act today confirmed he was looking into claims that the Cabinet Office had ordered staff to destroy emails before the Act comes into effect.

Any destruction of files – including emails – in order to prevent them being accessed under the Act should be “completely condemned”, said Information Commissioner Richard Thomas.

Cabinet Office staff have been told to delete emails more than three months old, unless they are important. The instruction came shortly before the freedom of information legislation comes into effect on January 1.

Mr Thomas told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “I am not sure what the Cabinet Office have said. I am urgently asking for details of the guidance they have put out.”

It will be interesting to see if Mr Thomas takes any action once he has the full details of the email destruction policy.

Dan Ilett wrote a piece in ZDNet UK that examines reaction from the computer services community in Parliament and the private sector. He makes an interesting point that private sector organisations such as financial services companies must comply with strict auditing regulations, such as Basel II and Sarbanes Oxley, which require the retention of all emails for seven years.

If those companies are found to have destroyed data in connection with an audit trail, the chief executive of the firm can face a jail sentence. Does this mean then, that private companies are more accountable than our own government? This is ludicrous.

MP slams Cabinet Office’s email destruction
December 21, 2004, 16:55 GMT

Anti-spam lobbyist Derek Wyatt MP is angry that the Cabinet Office is deleting millions of emails just days before the Freedom of Information Act comes into force.
See full article here.

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