I work for a global information company which makes billions of dollars a year selling valuable data to banks, hedge funds, and other people in the financial markets, often at very high prices: $2,000 a month or even more.
And then there’s Twitter, which jealously guards access to its full stream of tweets (roughly 1,000 per second, these days). As of now, however, it’s signed a deal with Gnip whereby you can get a randomly-selected 50% of those tweets for $360,000 a year, which works out at $30,000 a month. You’re not allowed to republish them, but that’s OK—the people willing to spend that kind of money are likely to be high-frequency trading shops who want to keep the data as private as possible in any case.
I don’t have a problem with Twitter monetizing my public tweets in this manner; as I understand it, DMs aren’t included, and neither are any tweets from protected accounts. But it’s quite astonishing how much those tweets are worth, when they’re aggregated into a fat pipe.
As Twitter shows, aggregated user data can be very valuable indeed. And with that kind of money on the table, there’s a lot of incentive to be ethically flexible.