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February 9, 2011

Press Complaints Commission says tweets aren’t private

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by Darren Allan

The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) has ruled that messages on Twitter should effectively be considered public.

The Independent reports that this decision stems from a case where Sarah Baskerville, a Manager at the Department of Transport, had her tweets published in the newspaper (and also The Daily Mail).

She had apparently been critical of the government in her comments, and reportedly called the leader of a training course she had been on “mental”. The civil servant argued that this information was only meant to be seen by her followers.

A Guardian report noted that she believed she was entitled to a reasonable expectation of privacy, and that the reporting of the whole affair had been misleading.

However, the PCC decided that because the tweets were publicly accessible, publishing them was fair game.

According to the Independent, the PCC stated: “It was quite clear that the potential audience for the information was actually much larger than the 700 people who followed the complainant directly, not least because any message could easily be re-tweeted to a wider audience.”

It’s another reminder, in an age where some companies look to scan over the Facebook accounts of prospective employees, to be careful what you write on a publicly viewable social network page.


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