Whilst addressing MP’s in the House of Commons today Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson was abruptly interrupted by his iPhone’s voice assistant Siri. Whilst he may have laughed it off, has he inadvertently compromised national security?
Mr Williamson was updating the Commons on activities in Syria when voice assisant Siri activated. Speaker John Bercrow commented by saying; “What a very Rum business.”
While many MPs, including Mr Williamson laughed off this electronic intervention, it poses a more serious question; has the man who heads the Ministry of Defence compromised national security at anytime?
A source close to the defence secretary was quick to tell the BBC that; having the voice recognition software switched on does not pose a security risk, saying he did not carry that phone during confidential and sensitive meetings.
However many security experts have contradicted this with some one saying that the first thing anyone should do is deactivate Siri, especially if you’re in government.
The tale of “he doesn’t carry that phone during confidential and sensitive meetings” does not do much to allay any issues either. I must note that the sources use of “that phone” is interesting. If not that phone, which one? Is it secure?
Lead by example
Members of our armed forces are frequently reminded of their duty to follow PERSEC – (personal security) rules at all times. Be careful what you post on social media and what you say in public etc. Mostly it’s common sense.
However as the Defence Secretary Mr Williamson must be seen to lead by example in following clear and defined procedures that his own department set.
Whilst the Ministry of Defence’s own “Think before you share” page does not directly address voice assistance, many other related setting are covered and I know from my time in the armed forces had anything like this occurred it would have to be investigated as a matter of due diligence.
Furthermore it’s social media guide is very explicit of the consequence of any possible breaches. This is not even FOR any type of breach but not following the guidelines. In my opinion Mr Williamson has done just that.
In the interest of fairness, he should be held to account to the same high standards as the service personnel and civil servants he oversees.
As the head of the Ministry of Defence there are so many sensitive topics Gavin Williamson could have discussed, no more so than the security of our nuclear deterrent.
They claim he didn’t have that phone in sensitive meetings but, can the same be said as he has wandered through Westminster? Even a slip of the tongue in his parliamentary office could have been listened too.
Will Gavin Williamson or Theresa May do the right thing and investigate? Probably not. Failure to do so not only shows the utter contempt for our armed forces but the country itself.