Twitter unlocks its archives for market research

Twitter has partnered with DataSift to offer market researchers the opportunity to analyse Twitter updates dating back up to two years.

Until now, companies only had access to a 30-day archive, while users can only access posts from the last week.

DataSift’s new platform – called Historics – allows companies to use past public Tweets to gather user data, which can then be filtered for demographic information, sentiment and online influence, among other things.

Twitter accounts that have been set to private or have been deleted will not be indexed.

“No-one’s ever done this before,” DataSift marketing manager Tim Barker told the 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.”

While the company has billed the platform as a way for companies to predict future events and harness online discussions, critics have been quick to raise privacy concerns.

“People have historically used Twitter to communicate with friends and networks in the belief that their tweets will quickly disappear into the ether,” Privacy International executive director Gus Hosein told the BBC.

“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.”

Responding to potential privacy concerns, Mr Barker said: “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.”

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