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According to recent guidance published by the ICO, tweets addressed to an institution may constitute valid Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.
Twitter may not be the ideal means for submitting and responding to FOI requests, however, provided that a request complies with the requirements in Section 8 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, there's no reason why it can't be submitted via this medium. Notably, a valid FOI request requires the requestor's real name, therefore, an institution in receipt of a request submitted using a pseudonym will not be obliged to respond (unless the requestor's real name is provided e.g. within their tweet or Twitter profile).
The ICO is of the opinion that a request in a tweet that only refers to an institution in an @mention is directed to and received by that institution. This means that colleges and universities may be required to exercise increased diligence in monitoring @mentions of itself on Twitter.
In summary, HE and FE institutions with Twitter accounts should now look at having procedures in place for dealing with FOI requests submitted through this channel. Further details are on the ICO website. JISC Legal also provides useful guidance on dealing with FOI requests.
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Posted on 29/07/2011
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