Data protection experts have expressed serious concerns about this week’s appointment of Nadine Dorries as the tenth Culture Secretary in a decade, citing an admission that she saw no wrong in sharing her Westminster password with staff, a move which is in breach of data protection law.
The shake-up sees former Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, who only unveiled the Government’s “Data: A new direction” consultation last week, become Minister without Portfolio in the Cabinet Office. He has also been appointed co-chair of the Conservative Party, replacing Amanda Milling.
Meanwhile, Julia Lopez succeeds John Whittingdale as Minister of State at DCMS. She was previously Parliamentary Secretary at the Cabinet Office.
Dorries’ appointment has raised a more than few eyebrows within the data protection community, following her admission back in 2017 that she shared her Parliamentary digital log-ins with around four members of staff in order to handle the high volume of virtual correspondence she receives.
The Information Commissioner’s Office warned officials against sharing passwords and log-ins after other MPs defended the practice.
In response to Dorries’ appointment, one commentator tweeted: “Cyber security is now in the hands of someone who leaves her PC open and available. Sleep well.” Another added: “IT safety 101. It’s more basic than 101. The lack of care or knowledge is astounding.” A third wrote: “The country needs at least one joke we can share.”
And Richard Forrest, legal director from law firm Hayes Connor, said: “We’re seeing a huge increase in data breaches in the workplace, so to have a Culture Secretary who has been so lax on cyber security is an unexpected choice.”
Meanwhile Professor Andy Phippen, professor of IT ethics and digital rights at the University of Bournemouth, added: “Given the Government is currently pondering whether we should ‘relax’ data protection regulation and move away from the GDPR, it would be great to have the confidence that our parliamentarians had the technical and legal understanding of this complex issue when considering this.
“Equally, observing the Online Safety Bill as it moves through Parliament, one would hope those debating greater regulation of big tech understand both what technology is capable of in terms of content monitoring and filtering, and the implications of legislation on everyone’s online experiences. Sadly, with a few exceptions, I do not have that confidence.”
Even fellow Tories have the knives out. Former Conservative minister Anna Soubry tweeted: “The appointment of Nadine Dorries as Culture Secretary is final confirmation (if you needed it) that we do indeed have the worst Prime Minister and Govt ever. Ever.”
She also told the BBC’s Newsnight: “The appointment of Nadine Dorries actually says everything that is wrong and rotten about this Prime Minister’s stewardship of this country.
“She never made it even as a bag carrier in either David Cameron’s or Theresa May’s Cabinet…She was not in government at all, and for very good reason.”
Industry bodies the DMA, the Advertising Association, ISBA and the IPA have yet to comment on Dorries’ appointment.
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