Have you ever wondered about the browsing habits of civil servants?
I haven’t, but the TaxPayers’ Alliance has. So the campaign group sent a Freedom of Information request to every Whitehall department. Only the Department for Transport has responded so far, but the information, covering January to May of this year, is very interesting.
Not too surprisingly the BBC is at the top of the list, followed by other news outlets and blogs. And of course Google is up there too. But many other sites proved popular – during lunch breaks, we have to assume.
Facebook comes in at 85th, with more than 130,000 hits. Argos is the most regular online shopping destination, but John Lewis, Next and Debenhams feature too.
Many football sites come up, most notably goonerweb and chelseaafc, showing where the DfT’s loyalties lie. And many seem to like a bet, hence the popularity of oddschecker and bet365 which get 25,808 and 7,328 hits respectively.
But some more unusual sites turn up on the list too.
Coming in at number 385 with 27,634 hits is bearsfaction.org.uk – a website that organises fantasy role-play festivals. It invites users to “leave reality behind” and “walk amongst goblins, elves and dwarves”. Makes a change from civil service colleagues, I suppose.
Smallworldbellydance.com , a south London belly dancing studio, gets 3,170 hits, while a website for fans of the Roman Empire attracted nearly 100,000.
And sexymp.co.uk, where users get to rank Members of Parliament in order of attractiveness, got 21,477 hits in the five-month period, making it the 465th most popular site. This one is actually quite fun!
A spokesman for the Department of Transport said, “Our internet access policy states that personal use of the internet by staff should be kept as short as possible and should not in any event exceed one hour each day made in their own time, e.g. meal breaks.”
But Matthew Sinclair, Director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, wasn’t convinced. “While many staff work very hard, there have been enough anecdotal reports of time-wasters within the civil service that it is vital taxpayers are able to scrutinise how time they are paying for is spent,” he said.