Is Twitter Selling Your Data to the Highest Bidder?

Heads up, Twitter users: The social media platform is about to cash in on your old tweets and personal information.

Twitter has licensed research companies Gnip Inc. and DataSift Inc. to analyze and sell archived tweets and users’ data to businesses for use in marketing, according to a Reuters report. Gnip will be able to sell packages of information that go back two years, while DataSift is limited to 30 days.

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Privacy rights experts like Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy for the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse in San Diego, worry about the repercussions of this move. “Harvesting what someone said a year or more ago is game-changing,” said Stephens.

“As we see Twitter grow and social media evolve, this will become a bigger and bigger issue,” said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for British-based Internet security company Sophos Ltd. Online companies have access to details such as what websites we visit, what advertising we look at and what we buy. And increasingly, said Cluley, “they’re also learning what we’re thinking. And that’s quite a spooky thought.”

More than 700 companies are lined up to see what DataSift has to offer, according to DataSift CEO Rob Bailey — not surprising considering clients who buy the data will be able to read tweets by topic and break those down based on geography. The marketing applications are mind-boggling. Imagine a company being able to see what people in any given geographical location are saying about its products.

According to Bailey, private conversations and deleted tweets cannot be accessed.  “The only information that we make available is what’s public,” he said. “We do not sell data for targeted advertising. I don’t even know how that would work.” And for those who are re-thinking something they may have tweeted in the past, it’s not too late to hit the delete button. DataSift has to do regular updates to remove deleted comments. Users can see their old tweets by clicking on the word “tweets.”

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To contact the reporter on this story: Gina Smith at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Damien Hoffman at