Thursday, June 18, 2015

Using Twitter to make FOI requests (revisited)

The Department for Work and Pensions made a bold claim some months ago on Twitter about how 99 per cent of the jobs on Universal Jobsmatch are genuine. I felt that this was probably nonsense given that they still do not have an effective way of vetting jobs that I am aware of.

So I tweeted a FOI request to them asking them for: 
...copy of internal report or assessment, including all data considered and method, for this assertion...
They not only failed to give me the information, but their denial about the lateness of the reply was arrogant (a simple 'sorry' would have won me over).  

The decision notice has been published at

This is the same sort of DN that the ICO issues in these circumstances, saying that requests via Twitter as valid, and that yes, my name was in the profile, blah, blah.

The only interesting thing is in relation to my complaint over section 11 - whether I could force them to tweet the reply (on principle, when a public authority tweets something that is likely to be nonsense, it would make sense to want it to use the same medium to provide evidence):
16. Section 11(1)(a) of the Act allows the applicant to express a preference for the form (or format) that the requested information should be communicated in, not the communication of whether information is held. The Commissioner finds that the DWP did not breach section 11.
Now, the error I made was that when I got no joy via Twitter, I emailed them to chase. Consequently, they had a mechanism for replying to me off Twitter. Had I not chased, but had gone to the ICO, I could have said that asking for an email address was against the 3rd Data Protection Principle, in that it was excessive - they had a mechanism for replying - by publishing the reply on the disclosure log and tweeting me a link.

I suppose that I could ask them to stop processing my email address, but it unlikely to succeed. More broadly, this DN is hard to understand in relation to section 11. Does this mean that if I email my FOI request, that a public authority can demand a postal address to confirm or deny whether it holds the information? That makes no sense.

I am toying with FTT... but I need to think... comments/free advice appreciated (although I have to say, this is hardly the most important FOI issue in the world and I don't really want to waste anyone's time).


1 comment:

Patrick said...

I would have thought that 'express a preference' is not necessarily the same as 'demand'.

If they have your email address then as you said this probably gives them sufficient excuse to not reply by twitter.

From their point of view they have the choice of either simply replying by email or putting in more legwork - even if it isn't much - to publish that same information online and then subsequently tweet it. I'm guessing that they would see email as both the simpler and cheaper option of the two (again even if the difference - especially in cost - is negligible).