Leaked memo claims government website harvests personal data for Brexit

The government is allegedly analysing personal information as a ‘top priority’. The government website ‘gov.uk’ is being investigated by the UK’s data protection watchdog over the way it processes personal information.

A memo obtained by Buzzfeed, alleges that Dominic Cummings, the chief advisor to the PM labelled the collection of data a ‘top priority’ as the country prepares for Brexit. Furthermore, it claims Boris Johnson informed members of the Exit Operations Committee that the Government Digital Service should ‘allow targeted and personalised information to be gathered, analysed and fed back actively to support key decision-making.’ The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said it has ‘contacted government regarding the collection of personal data on gov.uk in order to fully understand its approach to compliance with data protection law and whether any further action is necessary.’

Like any company or organisation, the government is subject to the Data Protection Act 2018 – the UK’s interpretation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The law puts certain requirements on processing of personal data. Meanwhile, the portal is the central hub for access to official information and services online, such as renewing passports or advice on being self-employed. An upturn in people visiting the site is expected, seeking details about Brexit as October 31 looms ever-closer. The government has played down suggestions of wrongdoing, saying individual departments currently use cookies legally to measure website use. It said it wants to bring this anonymised data together under one central roof to improve the service.

A government spokesman said all activity was fully complaint with legal obligations, with work on the website initiated at the beginning of the year. ‘All data remains anonymised and no personal data is collected at any point during the process,” the spokesman said. ‘All activity is fully compliant with our legal and ethical obligations under the Government’s Data Ethics Framework. ‘Ahead of the UK’s departure from the EU on October 31st the Government Digital Service is working to ensure people have the best possible experience when they access gov.uk services.’ Share this article via facebookShare this article via twitterShare this article via messenger