Despite what you may have recently heard, Twitter is not releasing all of your data to every scientist on the planet. As cliché as it sounds they’re actually trying to make the world better, without pulling an NSA on your privacy.
In the last couple of days, a story has been floating around that Twitter will soon be releasing all of its data to scientists; that sounds pretty radical. Who knows what those nerds are up to using all of your selfies and late night anger tweets, right?
Well not so fast, because the original story from Scientific American was very misleading. Twitter is actually releasing public data to a handful of respected institutions and scientists for very specific, hand-picked research projects. That sounds a bit different, doesn’t it?
Instead of allowing any undergrad to go through your social media history and steal all of your selfies, Twitter is actually creating a research program to which institutions such as Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital can apply. Once accepted such institutions can work alongside Twitter engineers and access the company’s full archive of PUBLIC tweets, spanning hundreds of billions of tweets over 8 years.
This initiative was announced back in February and is called Twitter DataGrants. A few weeks ago the first projects to be approved were announced. These include research into the effectiveness of Cancer awareness campaigns, the spread of gastro-intestinal diseases in children, emergency information systems, urban happiness and a few others. All in all, six projects out of 1600 were accepted and all of come from highly respected institutions.
Using the power of Twitter, scientists can study all of these problems, such as the spread of disease in a population, and better understand how to mitigate and solve certain issues. We live in an age of big problems and big data so using one to solve the other seems like the logical and decent thing to do.
If all goes well Twitter is looking to expand their DataGrants program, and offer access to more researchers as time goes on. Overall this is a good thing, as it gives scientists a new tool to use in solving some of our most important problems.
Twitter image courtesy of DigitalTrends.com