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Privacy betrayed: Twitter sells multi-billion tweet archive

Published time: February 29, 2012 14:08
Edited time: February 29, 2012 18:08
Privacy betrayed: Twitter sells multi-billion tweet archive.

Privacy betrayed: Twitter sells multi-billion tweet archive.

Twitter has sold billions of archived tweets believed to have vanished forever. A privacy row has erupted as hundreds of companies queue up to purchase users’ personal information from the new database.

­Every time you use social networks you become mere product – it’s an idea we will all have to get used to.  So, should we give up worldly goods and hide in a Tibetan monastery till the end of our days, or start putting up a fight to protect our privacy? In the latest in a long series of scandals over social networks that profit from our private data, the UK-based DataSift firm has announced that is has bought every tweet posted since January 2010. The business intelligence and data-mining platform will be the first company to offer the archive for sale.

DataSift’s Historics is a cloud-computing social data platform that enables businesses to extract insights and trends that relate to brands, news, public opinion and … actually anything you could ever need… from Twitter's public tweets. Now entrepreneurs will have access to billions of tweets, which literally means they will purchase every Twitter user along with all his secrets, GPS-location included. Thought the law protected you from thieves? No, on the contrary – it actually helps thieves to abuse you and steal your personal data. DataSift now brings to the table what it calls “an invaluable information source” with 250 billion tweets posted in 2010 alone.  Historics is available today as a limited release to existing customers and is scheduled to be generally available in April 2012.

­Do you agree your tweet is priceless?

The idea that months- or years-old tweets are of no value is a false one.  DataSift says almost 1,000 companies have joined a waiting list to access the service. No complicated surveys needed – the firms now have the feedback at their fingertips.

­Twitter turned out to be craftier than most users suspected.

“You thought that tweets you posted months ago had vanished, or were simply hidden away so deeply and awkwardly on the Twitter website that they would be too difficult to uncover? Think again,” Graham Cluley from security firm Sophos says, as quoted by The Daily Mail web edition.

It turns out that Twitter had archived every tweet and will now be rewarded for its ingenuity. Datasift, for instance, will charge companies up to £10,000 a month to analyze tweets posted each day for anything said about their products and services.

­Outrage over privacy

The question is whether an estimated 300 million Twitter users should be classified as victims whose personal data has been sacrificed on the altar of global marketing.  It has been reported that private accounts and tweets that have been deleted will not be indexed by the site. Nevertheless, privacy campaigners are alarmed.

The Daily Mail website quotes Justin Basini of the data privacy company Allow as saying: “Marketers will stop at nothing to get hold of your data. This move shows all those throwaway tweets have suddenly become a rich new revenue stream for Twitter… It has taken a stream of consciousness, analyzed it, bottled it and sold it for a profit. And the worst thing is, you never knew it was going to happen.”

DataSift claims it is planning to tap into another goldmine of information – Facebook – in just a few weeks. The latest data from comScore, an Internet marketing research company, says the average Facebook user spends around 6-7 hours a day using the social network. Now that the relatively laconic Twitter has turned dangerous, just imagine how much riskier it is to post something for six hours a day.

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