Remember that time you told @yourfriends that you were eating a delicious #sandwich? Pretty soon marketing companies could be analyzing that data for valuable information about future ways to target bologna sales to your demographic.
Twitter has decided to make it easier for these companies to mine billions of messages for valuable marketing data. The company will open its archives and sell its old tweets.
One of Twitter’s new customers, DataSift, has formed an alliance to get access to tweets going back to January 2010.
“Twitter has really become an incredibly valuable information source,” said Rob Bailey, DataSift’s CEO. “There are a flood of companies wanting to get more use from it.”
Starting next month, companies that pay the necessary fee will be able to analyze 2-plus years of tweets to learn more about their customers.
Because Twitter is a public forum, privacy watchdogs may face difficulties raising objections.
“We welcome the privacy debate,” said Rob Bailey, who is based in San Francisco.
Privacy advocates have been up in arms since Twitter revealed that it would be selling 2 years of archived tweets.
“People may consider tweets to be personal property but this deal makes clear they are not. Our personal posts on social media are yet another way for advertisements to be better targeted and that’s a very lucrative industry,” Nick Pickles, director of the Big Brother Watch Campaign Group, said.
“It’s clear that if you’re not paying for a service, you are not the customer – you’re the product.”
Facebook and Google have had their share of privacy concerns recently as well: there seems to be the common perception that information people put on social media websites is somehow privileged, but with moves like this Twitter makes it absolutely clear that you do not own your tweets.
Like Facebook before it, Twitter was wise to build a dedicated user base before starting to sell its users information. Privacy concerns will continue to rattle the blogosphere, but it seems unlikely they’ll have any real effect on the daily torrent of 250 million tweets. We might like to imagine companies like Facebook and Twitter altruistically promoting global conversation and sparking revolutions in the Middle East, but at the end of the day, they’re businesses, and they’re selling you to the highest bidder.