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Guess What? Your Tweets Aren’t Private Unless They’re Private

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File under “duh“…

The UK newspaper business, via its self-regulator the Press Complaints Commission, has effectively raised the middle finger to a government worker who had complained that newspapers’ republication of her tweets invaded her privacy.

Back in November, the Daily Mail and Independent quoted tweets in which Sarah Baskerville, AKA @Baskers, criticised government policy, appeared to support the Labour party and admitted to being hungover at work, the Department of Transport.


Baskerville lodged two separate complaints with the PCC, citing breach of privacy and inaccuracy.

But, in its first such ruling about Twitter, the PCC, said it was upholding neither: “While it was true in theory that anybody could view the information she had posted online, she argued that she had a ‘reasonable expectation that my messages…would be published only to my followers’.”

Indeed, the PCC, which many regard as an ineffective regulator because it is operated by publishers themselves, issued a news release stating:

“The complainant had taken no steps to restrict access to her messages. It was quite clear that the potential audience for the information was actually much larger than the 700 people who followed the complainant directly. Republication of material by national newspapers, even though it was originally intended for a smaller audience, did not constitute a privacy intrusion.”

Here’s where Twitter tells you about private accounts.

At last count, @Baskers had 20 social media profiles.

2 Responses to “Guess What? Your Tweets Aren’t Private Unless They’re Private”

  1. I’m afraid there are a couple of major errors in this article.

    The PCC is not operated by publishers themselves. The PCC receives arms length funding from the industry via the funding body PRESSBOF but it operates on a day to day basis completely independently of the industry.

    It is also not true to suggest that many regard the PCC as ineffective. In fact in nationally representative polling carried out by the largest market research organisation in the world last year only 14 per cent considered the PCC to be ineffective and 75 per cent of those who expressed an opinion considered the PCC to be effective or very effective.

  2. Landmark decision for individuals unaware that anything they publish becomes part of the public domain…

    Interestingly the use of social media is about to become more regulated for UK businesses with the Advertising Standards Authority’s announcement that, from the 1st March, it will also be monitoring the content of businesses’ websites and social media.

    Businesses will have a responsibility to ensure their online communications – whether it be a tweet or a web page – abides to the ASA’s “legal, decent, honest and truthful” rules that already apply to advertising campaigns.

    Whilst common sense should prevail on both part when posting information, it may take quite some time before people realise the power of social media.