Twitter being turned into “vast market-research enterprise” as tweet archive opened up

Companies now working behind the screen to mine Twitter dataTwitter has signed a deal with a UK based technology company, called Datasift, that will make a two year archive of tweets available to businesses. It will allow firms to search through tweets, and mine the data for market research purposes, all the way back to January 2010. Until now firms could only search back over a 30 day period.

The move has already been attacked by privacy campaigners according to a BBC report. One campaigner said the resulting insights sold to businesses was a “radical shift in the wrong direction” while another called the move “creepy”.

Gus Hosein, executive director of Privacy International argues that Twitter uses have inadvertently found themselves as part of a vast market research operation:

“People have historically used Twitter to communicate with friends and networks in the belief that their tweets will quickly disappear into the ether,” argued Gus Hosein, executive director of Privacy International.

“The fact that two years’ worth of tweets can now be mined for information and the resulting ‘insights’ sold to businesses is a radical shift in the wrong direction.

“Twitter has turned a social network that was meant to promote real-time global conversation into a vast market-research enterprise with unwilling, unpaid participants,” the BBC reports.

Tim Barker, Datasift’s marketing manager, told the BBC that Twitter, unlike Facebook, was a public social network and he did not see the move creating any new dilemmas.

He has a point, Twitter has always been very open and tweets very public, but they have never had longevity. They are gone in a matter of days.

So is he right, is this a problem free move, or does it open a new front in the digital privacy battle? How do you feel about suddenly having your tweets for the last two years sifted by businesses looking to find new ways to sell to you?

The change doesn’t alter what consumers can search for in the way of historic tweets — that remains a limited seven day archive.

  • Martin Thomas

    The genius of Twitter for researchers is its ability to tell you what people are doing & thinking right now and what they are likely to be doing in the near future. It is therefore mildly ironic that this new service replicates the flaws of traditional research which tells you how people thought and behaved in the past … & as they say in the financial services ads, past performance is not a guide to future performance.

  • Robert Clark

    This is nothing new, companies like Radeon 6 or Alterian have been crawling tweets and indexing data for a long time – they sell data mining too that go a lot deeper than just tweets, its more about online brand reputation management, sifting through blogs and forums also. At the end of the day, Twitter is generally a public forma and if you say something in public, you shouldn’t be worried about ‘Privacy’. If you are that bothered, change your twitter settings and keep all your tweets private.