The cover of The Sun on the Matt Hancock Affair allegations
An investigation into the leakage of CCTV footage that led to Matt Hancock’s death as health secretary is not about investigating The Sun or journalists, the Information Commissioner said.
Mr Hancock resigned from the cabinet after footage published by the newspaper showed him kissing advisor Gina Coladangelo in his department office in violation of Covid-19 rules.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has been criticized for a raid on two homes in the south of England that had confiscated computer equipment while investigating a suspected data breach related to the incident.
The Sun described the raids as “egregious abuse” that could prevent whistleblowers from coming forward.
Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham told PA News Agency that the regulator has a “legal responsibility” to investigate reports of a data breach “that manages the laws that Parliament has given us.”
Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock with Advisor Gina Coladangelo (Yui Mok / PA)
“I’m also interested in free journalism, the importance of an independent press and also in whistleblowers,” she said.
“But whistleblowers and the public interest turn to us in this case to establish the facts. It is therefore important that we examine the facts and only then determine whether this data breach was in the public interest.
“You know, on the other side of the equation, there is great concern in the security community and the public that their personal information collected on CCTV is being used for security purposes.
“On the one hand, the security actors say, ‘Go in there and research,’ and on the other hand, people kind of think that we’re researching The Sun or journalists, and it’s not us, we see if it’s there or not was not a violation of the law, the data protection act. “
The ICO said at the time of the raids that the Emcor Group, which provides CCTV services to the Department of Health and Social Welfare (DHSC), had submitted a breach report claiming the images were removed from the system without consent.
According to the supervisory authority, the alleged violation falls under Section 170 of the Data Protection Act 2018, which in certain circumstances includes a defense of the “public interest”.
Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham (ICO / PA)
Ms. Denham warned that the Online Safety Act, which aims to better protect vulnerable people online from a range of threats including child exploitation and terrorist content, may face similar “competing interests”.
“I think the online security law and the online harm regime will face the same need to balance competing interests and that is simply the nature of modern regulation, and especially regulation of new technologies,” she told PA.
Ms. Denham also said she would not seek information from The Sun after editor-in-chief Victoria Newton said she would rather go to jail than reveal the names of her informants.
In the meantime, the ICO has initiated a separate investigation into the use of private correspondence channels in DHSC.
It follows reports that Lord Bethell and former Health Secretary Matt Hancock routinely used private email accounts to discuss government affairs.
“When you think of the pandemic and all the decisions that have been made that have affected people, their freedom to move around, go to work, see their families, such decisions need to be kept on a government network in a system of government, especially when you are thinks of the government’s promised investigation, ”she said.
“My interest is to preserve and secure records that relate to one of the most important political peak periods since World War II.”