Dozens of Defense Ministry employees sanctioned for social media leaks

Some 34 staff have been disciplined since 2017, although the Defense Ministry said the figure could be higher due to ongoing investigations.

The SNP, which obtained the figures, said the scale of the leaks was “of real concern” and called for a review of policies and procedures.

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However, the Defense Ministry said the majority of the incidents in question were “minor breaches” of its social media policy.

Figures only include incidents where employees were disciplined. There are no details on the nature of the disciplinary action that was taken, but in its disclosure, the Defense Ministry said that in the majority of cases the incidents were “less serious” and involved non-disclosure. authorized.

The likely sanction in such cases, he added, was a form of disciplinary action “commensurate with the seriousness of the incident”.

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The figures disclosed only take into account those incidents that have been investigated and closed.

Some 34 Defense Ministry employees have been sanctioned for disclosing or sharing sensitive material on social media. Image: Crown copyright

Indeed, the Defense Ministry said the number of employees sanctioned between January 2020 and May could be even higher, with several cases still under review.

Likewise, the figures detailed by the Ministry of Defense relate only to civil servants or service personnel. It is not clear whether any external contractors were the subject of similar disciplinary action.

SNP defense spokesperson MP Stewart McDonald said: “This is a truly worrying development that needs to be treated with the utmost seriousness and transparency. The fact that this happens just a few weeks after sensitive documents are discovered at a bus stop makes it all the more incredible.

“The Department of Defense must be held accountable for such leaks to Parliament and the public, and must ensure that strong mechanisms are in place to prevent leaks of sensitive information that could harm national security – it is in our role. in everyone’s interest that it be done correctly.

“Going forward, it would be wise for the Department of Defense to review its policies and procedures in these areas, in full consultation with Parliament, to ensure that the current weak processes in place are robust and fit for the 21st century. “

A Defense Ministry spokeswoman said: “None of the incidents referred to compromised national security and the majority were minor violations of the Defense Ministry’s social media policy.

“We take all unauthorized information disclosures very seriously. Every incident is investigated and mitigation measures are put in place to prevent it from happening again. “

While there are no details of what information has been leaked, an analysis of annual Defense Ministry reports over the past few years shows an increase in the number of personal data incidents, in which incidents of personal data have increased. data has either been lost, disclosed without authorization or disposed of. insecurity.

There were only 68 incidents in 2016/17, increasing to 117 in 2017/18, then to 463 in 2018/19. The latest tally, covering 2019/20, recorded 546 incidents.

Seven of the incidents were deemed serious enough to be reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office. They understood the loss of the criminal investigation filed during archiving.

The figures show that there have been 49 cases of loss of insufficiently protected electronic equipment, devices or paper documents at secure government premises.

All Ministry of Defense staff are required to receive a comprehensive security briefing or complete an annual Fundamentals Security Course.

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