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WhatsApp messages are being deleted by UK officials. Should that be allowed?

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The nonprofit groups Foxglove and Citizens received approval on Tuesday to challenge the use of missing messages by UK officials, which they describe as “government by WhatsApp”. Applications such as Signal and WhatsApp, owned by them Facebook (FB), allow users to send messages that disappear automatically after a certain time.
Activists have accused the government of violating the Freedom of Information Act and the Public Records Act of 1958, which requires the government to preserve certain official documents in the public interest. Lawsuits began after he wrote to the government in March, asking him Prime Minister Boris Johnson to prohibit the disappearance of messages.

The cabinet office, which supports the prime minister and the cabinet, is demanding that officials delete WhatsApp chat messages at the end of a conversation, according to campaign groups, who said the rules are they first revealed in court this Tuesday.

The cabinet office said it does not comment on specific legal cases.

“Ministers will use a range of modern forms of communication for discussions, in accordance with legislative requirements and taking into account government guidelines,” a cabinet office spokesman said Wednesday in response to questions from CNN Business .

Messages that disappear

Scrutiny over the UK government’s communication practices has increased since Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s former aide, posted Whatsapp messages online in June that appeared to show private chats with the prime minister. That same month, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) acknowledged that it allowed ministers and officials to set up messages to delete them instantly.

In July, UK Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham initiated a formal investigation on the use of private correspondence channels in the Department of Health and Welfare, saying that information from private email accounts or messaging services is often forgotten, deleted, or lost.
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“The suggestion of ministers and senior officials using private correspondence channels, such as private email accounts, to conduct sensitive official business is worrisome,” Denham said in a statement at the time. “The public is concerned that there may be a loss of transparency about decisions that affect them and their loved ones.”

Foxglove director Cori Crider said Tuesday that the case was the first of its kind and posed “a critical problem for modern government.”

“We are doing this to defend the integrity of our public debate. We cannot learn from history if the evidence has vanished into thin air,” he said. added.

Clara Maguire, director of Citizens, said the government’s lack of transparency has contributed to policy failures and hampered the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We believe this case goes to the heart of this issue and we hope to prove that government by WhatsApp is not only dangerous but also illegal,” he said.

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