Information published on Twitter – or tweets as I believe they are called – cannot be considered as private according to a ruling from the Press Complaints Commission.
The Commission cleared the Daily Mail and the Independent on Sunday of breaching privacy guidelines by publishing the contents of tweets posted by a civil servant.
Scot Sarah Baskerville, a Department for Transport employee, brought the complaint after the two newspapers published details of her tweets last November. Baskerville had described a course leader as “mental” and posted links to tweets attacking government “spin” and Whitehall waste.
Baskerville claimed that she had a reasonable expectation of privacy, as she had intended her remarks to be read only by her 700 Twitter followers. The newspapers defended the case by arguing that the messages had been placed in the public domain and could be read by anyone.
The PCC sided with the newspapers, ruling that the potential audience for Ms Baskerville’s tweets was much wider than her followers, because each message could be forwarded on to others.
This was the first time that the PCC had dealt with a case involving Twitter, and it therefore sets a precedent. Stephen Abell, Director of the PCC, stressed the ruling’s importance.
“As more and more people make use of such social media to publish material related to their lives, the commission is increasingly being asked to make judgements about what can legitimately be described as private information,” he said.
“In this case, the commission decided that re-publication of material by national newspapers, even though it was originally intended for a smaller audience, did not constitute a privacy intrusion.”
Once again the message from this case is to be careful what you say when you are online. You never know who might be watching.
Tweets are now officially fair game for newspapers – so be very careful with those 140 characters.