As more and more people are increasingly asking the Press Complaint Commission in the United Kingdom to make judgements about what can be legitimately described as private information, the PCC has now ruled that materials published on Twitter shouldn’t be considered as private and can therefore be published. This decision follows a recent complaint by a Twitter user that the use of her tweets by newspapers was an invasion of privacy. The user complained that the information was private and only meant for her 700 or so followers. Although she had written a disclaimer that her views on Twitter were personal and has nothing to do with her employers, the press regulator ruled that the potential audience was much wider than her followers as the tweets could be forwarded (or re-tweeted) to others. In addition, because the user was not tweeting anonymously, the PCC agreed that it was publicly accessible and therefore did not constitute a breach of privacy.
This ruling brings to mind recent incidents involving high-profile sports personalities such as Premier League footballers Ryan Babel (now playing for TSG 1899 Hoffenheim) and Arsenal FC’s Jack Wilshere. While the latter was fined for a controversial statement, Wilshere only escaped with a caution (from the likes of Theo Walcott). Overall, while some or most people are already aware that there is hardly any privacy on the Web particularly on social-networking sites, it is now official that those who make use of social media such as Twitter and Facebook to publish materials relating to their lives do so in a public domain and cannot legitimately describe such information as private particularly were no controls have been put in place.
Where do you draw the line between public and private information on social networking Websites such as Twitter and Facebook?