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InfoLawUpdate - Freedom of Information requests made via social media

Burnetts' information law solicitor Natalie Ruane discusses the guidelines issued by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) on Freedom of Information requests made via social media.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has recently published new guidelines for public authorities on how they can respond to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests made via social media. The ICO has confirmed that any FOI requests, via message, to accounts operated by a public body (such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter) will impose obligations on those organisations to disclose information under the FOI Act 2000. The ICO also outlined how public bodies should deal with requests and the appropriate medium they would use to disclose the information to the requester. For example, if a request is made by private message to the public body an appropriate response would be for the public body to disclose the information back to the requester by private message. Again, if the requester publishes the request on a website the public body may feel it is appropriate (or not) to publish its response on the website.

A public body will not need to respond to a request if they are not 100% clear of the requester’s real name. This may be particularly apparent on some social media sites where ‘nicknames’ or a variation of someone’s real name is used frequently (for example, @jimbo6521 or @robbo2014).

The ICO guidance contains details on how public bodies respond to requests where the requester seeks information that contain keyword terms. It is recognised that some requesters may cite a word that is so common that it makes the scope of the request unreasonably broad. If it is considered that the request is unreasonably broad a public body may reject the request.

About the author

Natalie Ruane profile photo

Natalie Ruane

Natalie leads the Employment Law & HR team and specialises in education.

Published: Thursday 3rd April 2014
Categorised: Information Law

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