British newspaper Mail Online is reporting that Twitter has forged an alliance with a company called Datasift to help sell Twitter messages to marking companies looking to profile potential customers. The Telegraph has confirmed the agreement and says that sales of tweets up to two years old are expected to begin immediately. News site RT Question More, says the sale is an abuse of trust and Twitter users should boycott the service starting immediately.
Mail Online notes that most Twitter users believe that their tweets only exist for a week because after that amount of time, they can no longer access them. This is not the case of course, as Twitter has archived every tweet ever made by every single one of its customers. Those tweets are now up for sale to the highest bidder.
The question here isn’t whether Twitter has the right to sell Tweets (it does) or even whether it is ethical for it to do so. The real issue here is, according to Ubergizmodo, whether Twitter falsely represented to its customers the amount of time that their Tweets would “live” on the Twitter servers.
Mail Online says that the tweets, which number somewhere around 250 million a day sent by people the world over are a valuable commodity, and Twitter, which doesn’t charge users to access its service quite clearly has to do something to stay afloat. Attempts to integrate advertising have simply not worked as well as the company had planned. Selling tweets however could prove very lucrative.
Ubergizmodo points out that users won’t have to worry about being targeted due to Tweets they have made any time soon however due to the sheer volume of Tweets that are out there. Prospective buyers are much more likely to use sophisticated software to hop-scotch their way through the data to pick up trends or to create averages to see how “hot” topics were during certain time periods. Other companies may buy a copy of the data simply sift through it all to see how often their name is mentioned.
Others aren’t so charitable, as Mail Online points out that some sites have described the move as subversive, creepy and even just plain a wrong. They are also reporting that Datasift will be charging customers about $15,000 month for access to the data and that the company says it has over a thousand clients signed up already. They also are reporting that deleted accounts will not be included in the sale.