Could Dominic Cummings be risking national security by recruiting via Gmail?
PUBLISHED: 11:37 03 January 2020 | UPDATED: 15:56 03 January 2020
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As Boris Johnson’s senior political adviser, Dominic Cummings is often criticized for wielding the kind of power mocked by TV shows like The Thick of It. Today’s recruitment drive, however, might be too close to the bone.
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The avant-garde nature of the ad - posted directly to his personal blog - probably impressed some. It seeks out geniuses who excel in the field of mathematics and computer programming as well as artists and "misfits". Those individuals, Cummings claims, are needed to fill an intelligence vacuum that he believes is currently propping up the walls at Number 10.
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His unusual approach to hunting for staff gave political commentators plenty to tweet about, from his antagonistic takes on the civil service to his open admission that he has too much say over topics he knows little about. But equally notably, he also requested that potential recruits email their CVs and applications to a Gmail address.
That's why Gmail found itself trending last night - and I can't say I'm surprised that Cummings would appear to be conducting government business in a wildly insecure manner.
As a senior political adviser, Cummings is privy to sensitive political information that is potentially damaging to Britain's national security. With that in mind, one would expect that government business, including recruitment and other HR concerns, would always be handled on secure government-run email servers. Cummings appears to have missed that memo - and is now openly seeking super-talented "weirdos" (some which he claims may become officials) via an insecure private email account.
Gmail is well known for providing Google with access to the content of messages. It is for this reason that in the last few years we have seen a growing wave of consumers and businesses "de-googling" their emails. I strongly advise any individual, business, or government official who requires privacy and security for their online communications to steer away from Gmail in favour of an encrypted email service.
The access Google has to the content of private Gmail messages means that any emails sent from or to Cummings' new inbox, concerning the internal running of the UK government, are potentially visible to Google, a private American company. Maybe they'll poach some of his bright young things?
Worse still, Google has previously been revealed to be providing access to the content of emails - albeit, the company says, after they've jumped numerous hoops - to third parties. Nonetheless, once allowed, these can scan emails for keywords for marketing purposes - something you would think digital marketing guru Cummings would be aware of.
- Ray Walsh is a digital privacy expert at ProPrivacy.com
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