Despite its controversy, the mining of historic tweets presents a massive opportunity for market research organisations.

News last week that Twitter has signed a deal with UK based technology firm, Datasift, to make a two year archive of tweets available for businesses has proved to be controversial amongst privacy campaigners. The deal will mean businesses can sift through tweets all the way back to January 2010, and with this, market research organisations look to profit as well.

Most people who use Twitter sensibly are fully aware that whatever they post is recorded in the public domain. This didn’t stop when Google’s contract to index tweets in search results finished. Whilst Twitter might give the impression that conversations are private, this is sadly not the case. Unless you ‘lock’ your tweets, anything you tweet, whether it is posted to your feed or in reply to another user, is visible to anyone. For a long time, businesses have had to be cautious about the way they portray themselves when using social media. The more social media becomes embedded into our daily lives, the more it seems personal users are expected to maintain the same caution about their online reputation. Public image is no longer confined to the way we act on the street.

As the data is released, market research organisations will be scrambling to get their hands on it first, or at least they should be. Althought the tweets could be up to two years old, they offer an unprecedented insight into the thought processes and choices of particular demographics. In a case that is the first of its kind, I just wonder how users will respond to this news on Twitter itself? Twitter hasn’t helped matters by failing to be more open about the project, a project that – let’s not forget – they began way back in January 2010. Two years have passed, and this is the first time the general public have heard anything about the deal with Datasift. Whilst I genuinely believe the deal is good for business and great for market research organisations, I do think Twitter should be more public about its plans if it expects users to act the same way about their tweets.

What do you think?