Major government departments have bought more than 700 Zoom video conferencing licences during the COVID-19 outbreak and 41,300 new laptops, tablet computers and mobile phones to help staff operate remotely.
Government and parliament were told by the intelligence agencies two months ago not to use the videoconferencing service Zoom for confidential business, due to fears it could be vulnerable to Chinese surveillance.
The quiet warnings to limit the technology came after the cabinet had used Zoom to hold a well-publicised meeting at the end of March, a decision that was defended at the time as necessary in “unprecedented circumstances”.
Official figures obtained under Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation show that despite these warnings, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) purchased 550 Zoom accounts, the Cabinet Office 150, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) 15, the Treasury five and the Home Office eight.
These government departments have also invested in 27,589 new laptops since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, 4,011 tablet computers and 9,700 mobile phones.