Whether we like it or not, social media is here to stay. Like all the great technological innovations that came before, it is men (and women) who decides how it will be used.
“Everybody’s talking. Know what they’re saying!” This is the reality in today’s social media dominated world. We’re all talking, but how many of us are aware that everything we say is being recorded, monitored, analyzed, and distributed to corporations, government agencies, and various organizations around the world?
Ladies and gentlemen, I do not wish to discourage the use of the tools that have given the average citizen a greater voice and allowed his/her opinions to be heard across the world. In fact, I encourage everyone to participate in the great conversation that is life.
I write to educate. And so, I would like to just bring to everyone’s attention that there is a huge business out there that concentrates on monitoring everything that is said on the social media world.
Everything that is posted on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Blogs, Podcasts, Social Bookmarks, Wikis, and Photo-sharing sites is essentially monitored using some very sophisticated and sometimes very expensive tools.
Here are a few of the major players in this “very interesting” business:
CISION: With Cision’s social media monitoring services you’ll receive real-time reports on over 100 million blogs, social networking sites and microblogs, tens of thousands of online forums, and hundreds of video and image-sharing sites.
Radian6: The Radian6 dashboard is a flexible, web-based social media monitoring and engagement platform that lets you view relevant conversations happening around your brand and products in real time. We aggregate those conversations – saving you lots of legwork – and put them into visuals that make analysis and measurement meaningful and actionable.
CustomScoop: Delivers customizable media monitoring technology and analysis to its customers in Public Relations, Sales, Marketing, Investor Relations, and Competitive Intelligence. Highlights include human filtering and tonality rating.
Twendz: Using the twendz application gives a glimpse into what’s on people’s minds and their emotional reaction. Mining Twitter conversations alerts you to brewing trends, conversation topics and points of view. As the conversation changes, so does the twendz application by evaluating up to 70 tweets at a time. When new tweets are posted, they are dynamically updated, minute by minute.
Scout Labs: Scout Labs is a powerful web-based application that tracks social media and finds signals in the noise to help your team build better products and stronger customer relationships. Highlights include Buzz Tracking, Conversation Digest, and Automated Sentiment.
Social Mention: Social Mention allows you to easily track and measure what people are saying about you, your company, a new product, or any topic across the web’s social media landscape in real-time. Social Mention monitors 100+ social media properties directly including: Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, YouTube, Digg, Google etc.
Nielsen: Analyzing and measuring online audiences, advertising, consumer behaviors, brand advocacy, and buzz; Nielsen has a range of products and services that provides high-quality Internet metrics.
Like most human innovations, they can be used for good or bad. I can see a very strong case for the value that these tools can provide. One can also see just how devastating these tools are if used for other, more selfish reasons.
Case and point:
Federal law enforcement and national security officials are preparing to seek sweeping new regulations for the Internet, arguing that their ability to wiretap criminal and terrorism suspects is “going dark” as people increasingly communicate online instead of by telephone.
Essentially, officials want Congress to require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct “peer to peer” messaging like Skype — to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order.
The bill, which the Obama administration plans to submit to lawmakers next year, raises fresh questions about how to balance security needs with protecting privacy and fostering innovation. And because security services around the world face the same problem, it could set an example that is copied globally. 
It may also be a surprise to learn that the Library of Congress is already working on archiving every single public tweet ever made. 
Now, I would like to just say that I have personally used these tools in the past and what they can do is simply astonishing. With just a few mouse clicks, my computer, and dash of initiative I’ve been able to actually monitor the entire Internet!…just imagine what one can do with a few thousand dollars and a staff of minions.
The tools are there, the intentions are always questionable, but if you walk away with anything from this article, it would be to exercise caution on the web. It’s, quite literally, a brave new world out there.
Thanks for reading,
- U.S. Tries to Make It Easier to Wiretap the Internet: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/27/us/27wiretap.html?_r=3&hp
- Congress to archive every tweet ever posted publicly: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8621297.stm