Michael Gove, who doesn’t always have a great deal of luck with FOI, was today accused of using a private email for government business by the Financial Times. If he did he is not the first. A similar allegation was raised recently in Canada (thanks here to Al Roberts). Sarah Palin also used private email when Governor of Alaska, though it was later ruled legal.
This issue seems to raise two points. The first is how exactly this complies or not with FOI, an issue FOI Man discusses in depth as does David Higgerson. The difficulty is that while it may not be strictly against the legislation it is certainly against the spirit and carries the taint of appearing to have ‘something to hide’.
The second is how exactly this may affect how decisions are made and the record of a decision that exists in the future. Is it the electronic equivalent of the post it note? Even if it is less easily disposed of, could it lead to parallel decision-making chains with one ‘hidden’ communication channel only accessible through a Watergate style wrangle over access? A final thought is how common this is. Was Michael Gove unwise to have (allegedly) done this or did he just commit the sin of getting caught?