Believe it or not, your tweets are valuable. In fact, since 2010 they’ve all been shared with the U.S. Library of Congress. Now Twitter is moving to sell their users’ tweets to data harvesting companies Gnip Inc and DataShift Inc.
[Gnip Inc and DataShift Inc] are licensed by Twitter to analyze archived tweets and basic information about users, like geographic location.
More than 700 companies are on a waiting list to try out its offering, DataSift CEO Rob Bailey said in an interview with Reuters. Those who buy the data will be able to see tweets on specific topics and even isolate those views based on geography. Bailey, who is based in San Francisco, said the effect is something like holding a huge number of sporadic focus groups on brands or products.
For instance, Coca-Cola Co could look at what people in Massachusetts are saying about its Coke Zero, or Starbucks Corp could find out what people in Florida are saying about caramel lattes. Companies can also look at how they have responded to consumer complaints.
Gnip, which offers the short-term data package, said the information collected — which involves real-time viewing — can also be used during natural disasters to help rescuers, to monitor illnesses such as a flu outbreak and to analyze stock market sentiment.
For people concerned that something they said will come back to haunt them, it’s not too late to go back and delete old tweets. DataSift is required to regularly update its files to remove comments that have since been deleted.
I’d say I have a problem with this personally, but the majority of my tweeting is set to private and therefore not included in the sale. Moreover, this information could be extremely valuable and lead to product improvements—or, in the case of Gnip’s tweet analysis, public health and disaster relief. Could one make a slippery slope argument here? Yes, but this is what Twitter is about. Online these days, it should almost be an assumption that what is shared with the public will be sold and in turn used to sell something back to you.
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