Public sector employees who text on a private device for work purposes are subject to freedom of information requests, according to guidance published by UK data authority the Information Commissioner's Office.
Relevant data on any media, including mobile phones, and private email used for work purposes, is covered by the Freedom of Information Act (FOI Act), the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) said in guidance published on Thursday.
"Official information recorded on mobile devices, including text messages on mobile phones, or in any other media, may... be considered to be held on behalf of the public authority," said the guidance.
Public authorities should not be surprised that private SMS and email are covered by the FOI Act, information commissioner Christopher Graham said in a statement.
"Clearly, the need to search private email accounts should be a rare occurrence; therefore, we do not expect this advice to increase the burden on public authorities," said Graham.
Some politicians are suspected of having used private email to try to keep correspondence off-the-record. On Monday Labour tabled parliamentary questions for education secretary Michael Gove in an effort to find out the extent of the use of private emails at the Department for Education, according to the Guardian.