Twitter Sells Tweet Archive to Market Researchers

Companies are being given access to Twitter’s huge archive of tweets after the micro blogging service partnered with Datasift to offer a fully searchable archive of tweets dating back to January 2010.

Companies are now able to search and analyse up to two years of Twitter updates for market research purposes. Photo: Scott Beale/Flickr

From today onwards, businesses around the world can pay a fee to access all of the tweets written on Twitter going back to January 2010, reports The Telegraph.

Until today, only the previous 30 days of tweets were available for companies to search. Regular users can access posts from the past seven days.

However, the partnership with the British start-up, founded by Tweetmeme creator Nick Halstead, is offering companies looking to improve their relationships with their customers, access to all tweets posted during the last 24 months.

Twitter users are only able to access their own tweets from seven days ago. UK-based Datasift is the first company to offer the archive, according to BBC.

“No-one’s ever done this before,” Tim Barker, Datasift’s marketing manager, told BBC. “It’s a brand new service that we’re bringing online – it’s a massive technology challenge because of the amount of data that is pumped out every single day.”

“We now live in an era where brands are shaped by what customers say and by accessing these tweets, companies can listen to their customers at scale,” he said.

Datasift pays Twitter a syndication fee each time it licenses a tweet to a company. The relationship is not exclusive however, and other companies are expected to follow suit and offer increased access to users’ tweets.

To give a sense of the scale of the challenge Datasift receives approximately 250m tweets a day, every one of which has to be assessed for a positive or negative tone.

The software will also log location data and social media influence based in part on existing influence monitoring service Klout.

Private accounts and tweets that have been deleted will not be indexed by the site.

The cost to businesses will depend on the company’s size, with Datasift’s entry-level package costing £635 ($1,000) per month for “individuals or developers”.

Twitter is a public social network, as there is no privacy option. Barker said he had no idea whether the company will allow consumers to access their own tweets going back more than seven days anytime soon.

“It is incredibly difficult to store and serve that amount of data over long periods of time,” he explained. Meanwhile, the move has ignited concerns among privacy campaigners.

“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.”

Mr Barker defended the technology, arguing that people using Twitter do so due to its public nature.

“The thing with Twitter that it was always created to be a public social network – which isn’t the case with Facebook which is more of a blended model. Twitter has been public from day one.

“I don’t see that this creates any new dilemmas because this information is being pushed out socially right now. What Datasift will do is help companies get a longer view of this and a better insight.”

Justin Basini, chief executive of Allow,a personal data and privacy rights company, said: “Marketers will stop at nothing to get hold of your data. This move shows that all those throwaway tweets have suddenly become a rich new revenue stream for twitter, much in the same way that Facebook has monetised it’s offering.”

“It has taken a stream of consciousness, analysed it, bottled it and sold it for a profit. And the worst thing is, you never knew it was going to happen. It just goes to show that online privacy is a rare thing indeed. We think that people should be allowed to have a greater say in who has access to their data and get a share of that data’s value,” he said.

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