Personal computer equipment and other electronic devices have been removed from two residential properties as part of an investigation into the leaked Department of Health and Social Care CCTV footage that cost Matt Hancock his job.
Data watchdog the Information Commissioner’s Office said the hardware had been seized as part of operations in the south of England that were prompted by last month’s publication of images of the then health secretary embracing Gina Coladangelo in a DHSC building.
Hancock resigned after the images published in The Sun caused a backlash from MPs angry at the health secretary breaching his own social distancing rules with lover Coladangelo, who was a non-executive director at the department. He had initially sought to ride out the storm and recieved the support of prime minister Boris Johnson.
In a statement, the ICO said yesterday’s raids were the result of an alleged data breach reported by Emcor Group (UK) plc, which provides facilities management and CCTV for the health department.
The ICO said Emcor had submitted a breach report as a processor of personal data, complaining that images were taken from the DHSC CCTV system without consent from either it or the department.
ICO director of operations Steve Eckersley said the personal computer equipment and devices had been seized in relation to alleged breaches of section 170 of the Data Protection Act 2018 and that investigations were ongoing.
“It’s vital that all people, including employees and visitors to public buildings, have trust and confidence in the protection of their personal data captured by CCTV,” he said.
“In these circumstances, the ICO aims to react swiftly and effectively to investigate where there is a risk that other people may have unlawfully obtained personal data. We have an ongoing investigation into criminal matters and will not be commenting further until it is concluded.”
A DHSC spokesperson said: “We take the security of our personnel, systems and estates, extremely seriously and the department will continue to engage and cooperate with the Information Commissioner’s Office while they assess the information provided.”
In addition to fuelling fury about ministerial adherence to coronavirus social-disatncing rules, revelations about Hancock’s affair with Coladangelo also led to calls for a standards crackdown.
Labour Party deputy leader Angela Rayner said the fact that Hancock was able to appoint a friend and lover to a position in DHSC where she was supposed to be holding him to account was a sign that conflict-of-interest rules were “unfit for purpose”.
Independent think tank the Institute for Government also used the Hancock affair as an example of the need for an overhaul of the ministerial code.