Feb. 28, 2012 at 10:52 AM ET
In Twitter's quest to make more money, it may have found a gold mine in your old, public tweets, which could bring a pretty penny to not only the micro-blogging site, but also to the market researchers and other firms that will provide others access to those 140-character missives.
The Twitter firehose, a data feed that gives access to real-time tweets, has been available to partners like Twittervision, Zappos, FriendFeed, and Summize since 2008; and to Yahoo, Google and Microsoft since 2009. Other companies also became partners in early 2010. Now Twitter has opened up that access to others who pay their licensing fees.
(Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)
Those who have the tendency for TMI tweets had best be braced for marketing intrusions, as those who pay can now search tweets from January 2010 and on. The first company to offer the archive to its clients, the BBC reports, is the appropriately named U.K.-based Datasift.
Before now, companies could only access tweets going back 30 days, while regular folk had only seven days worth of tweets available to them.
Companies like Datasift -- which told the BBC it has a waiting list of 1,000 other firms chomping at the bit to access its service -- stand to make a killing from all those juicy details.
Datasift's marketing manager told the BBC that "the company takes in roughly 250 million tweets every 24 hours, all of which are analyzed for content -- such as whether they were said in a positive or negative tone. The software will also log location data and social media influence based in part on existing influence monitoring service Klout."
Think about all those seemingly innocuous things you write that a marketing company could build a profile upon: tweets about your alma mater, organizations you support, donations you've made, retweets from all over, people you know, activities you like, and most importantly -- where you spend your disposable income.
Private messages and deleted tweets won't be part of this archive, so if you haven't already deleted the tweets that you wouldn't want others to know about, then perhaps it's time to do that.
Consumers have become very aware of how vulnerable they are -- especially in what information they put out on social network sites. Every time you check into Foursquare and post on Twitter where you are, that's up for grabs -- if you've checked the box in your Twitter settings that allow it to add a location to your tweets. (I don't like anyone knowing where I am until after the fact, so I have never checked this particular box.)
Sure, you might want to save all your tweets as some kind of historical record for yourself. But, if you have any doubts about a tweet and the impact it could have later, then delete it.