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Thought your tweets were private? Not so, says PCC

Posts made on Twitter are in the public domain, according to the Press Complaints Commission
Written by Shelley Portet, Contributor

Posts made on Twitter are in the public domain, according to the Press Complaints Commission

The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) has ruled that messages on microblogging site Twitter count as public information, following a complaint from a civil servant after her tweets were published in the Daily Mail and The Independent on Sunday.

The Department for Transport employee made the complaint on the grounds that she had a "reasonable expectation" that her tweets, in which she complained about her job, would only be read by the 700 or so people following her.

Twitter ruled a public domain by Press Complains Commission

Users of Twitter should expect their tweets to be read by a larger audience than those directly following them
Image: Twitter

However, the PCC ruled that because the civil servant had not restricted access to her tweets, they were available for everyone to read and so belong in the public domain. Also, since tweets can easily be retweeted, users of Twitter should expect their tweets to reach a larger audience than those directly following them.

Finally, as she was not tweeting anonymously, the Commission ruled that her privacy had not been invaded by the republication of her tweets.

PCC director Stephen Abell stressed the importance of the ruling in a statement, commenting that as more people engage in social media, "the Commission is increasingly being asked to make judgements about what can legitimately be described as private information".

The ruling comes as Twitter is increasingly viewed as a useful business tool with more CIOs telling silicon.com they are opting to use the social networking site to engage with staff and the wider IT community.

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