Is an archive of Tweets ethical?

A key component of market research is analyzing trends, and for companies involved in social media, this includes accessing the history of tweets. In the past, only the previous 30 days of tweets were available for search. Today, however, “firms can search tweets back to January 2010 in order to plan marketing campaigns, target influential users, or even try to predict certain events (BBC).”

This technology is being offered for the first time by UK-based company Datasift. Datasift’s marketing manager, Tim Barker, talked to BBC about the new archive they are offering. To get a better idea of how it works, consider the following points:

  • Datasift takes in roughly 250 million tweets every 24 hours, all of which are analyzed for content, including the tone of the tweet.
  • Private accounts and deleted tweets are not included in the archive.
  • Almost  1,000 companies are on a waiting list for access to Datasift.
  • Twitter will earn money from Datasift as part of a licensing fee.
  • Datasift’s “entry-level package” starts at $1,000/month.

Not everyone is impressed by the door Datasift is opening by archiving years of previous tweets, though. According to Gus Hosein, executive director of Privacy International, “People have historically used Twitter to communicate with friends and networks in the belief that their tweets will quickly disappear into the ether.”

What do you think about Hosein’s statement? Don’t we run the risk of anything we say on the Internet, (especially on and within social media platforms,) being accessed by anyone with an Internet connection, at any time?

Barker certainly thinks so. “The thing with Twitter is 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,” he told BBC. “Twitter has been public from day one.”

Please share your thoughts below!


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