ICO to investigate the UK government's anti-discrimination unit

16/06/2023 | Civil Service World

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has opened an investigation into the work undertaken by the UK government's Counter-Disinformation Unit (CDU). The news, first reported in The Telegraph (£), follows reports that officials were monitoring and flagging posts from individuals for being critical of government policy. The ICO said they would speak with the government again regarding their anti-disinformation efforts during the pandemic. The ICO previously investigated the CDU and provided advice in September 2021 on data gathering and privacy information.

The CDU has come under scrutiny following the Ministry of Truth report published by the civil liberties and privacy campaigning group Big Brother Watch in February. 

In a related post, The Guardian reports that an account of the CDU's logging of Green MP Caroline Lucus was published after Lucas and Big Brother Watch submitted a subject access request revealing that Lucas was included in a 'disinformation' report by the CDU. This was due to her criticising the government's response to the global pandemic in a tweet arguing for greater access to booster vaccines in countries with shortages. The CDU monitored her speech online for criticising ministers, and even flagged her tweet calling former prime minister Boris Johnson a liar under "mis/disinformation narratives" ahead of local elections.

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