The vast majority of Whitehall departments have agreed to share web analytics data in a controversial plan to allow the Government to monitor user behaviour across the main Gov.uk online hub to offer personalised services to users.
Only four out of 17 departments have so far not signed up to the programme, which sparked controversy last month after a leaked document Downing Street suggested the Government was aiming to target Brexit messaging to consumers as they access Government websites.
At the time, the ICO said it had contacted the Government regarding the collection of personal data on Gov.uk "in order to fully understand its approach to compliance with data protection law and whether any further action is necessary".
The Cabinet Office has since insisted there is “nothing sinister” about the project, adding that it is standard practice for website owners to use Google Analytics data to improve performance.
But Labour MP Mary Creagh submitted a series of parliamentary questions to ministers seeking to find out more about the plans.
In response, Simon Hart, the Cabinet Office minister for implementation responded: “We are using clear and robust memorandums of understanding (MoUs) to set out the terms of the project. The MoUs outline the responsibilities of both the Government Digital Service and departments in a number of areas, including handling the relevant data to ensure there is no unauthorised access, loss, misuse, modification or disclosure.
“We have received signed MoUs from all departments apart from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), the Cabinet Office (CO) and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), as we are still working through some points of detail to facilitate their response.”
Hart said that only civil servants with suitable security clearance will be allowed to access the data, and that the data is stored and transmitted in an encrypted format.