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FOI and Personal Phone Communications - Where is the line?

Recently we have seen more and more examples of politicians communicating about government business using their personal mobile phones. David Cameron’s alleged lobbying of Rishi Sunak and Nadhim Zahawi being one of several examples to come to light in the past few weeks. Whilst some elements of the conversation have been released by the aforementioned people themselves, there have been FOI requests asking for the release of full conversations, including searches of personal phones.

From this, two important questions arise:

1) Should all government business be subject to FOI, no matter what communications channel it has gone through, including personal phone conversations?

2) Given many civil servants are only permitted to perform their duties on work equipment, largely due to security issues, should politicians be sanctioned for using personal equipment to conduct government business?

In the spirit of the FOIA and government transparency, ultimately these conversations should be disclosed in full, any attempted lobbying should be declared, and a loophole to get around FOIA by using personal equipment shouldn’t exist. This would be in an ideal world, but there are obviously greater complexities at play that create boundaries to what is possible.

We’d be very interested to hear your thoughts on the matter. Please leave your comments below:

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