Tracking the Web, and Monetizing Off It

Yesterday, Nicole Baute of the Toronto Star covered a new social networking analysis company, Sysomos. The Canadian company gathers data from Twitter, Facebook, and 30 million blogs. Yes, 30 million.

It’s a new start-up by a UofT prof and one of his grad students, and they received financial support from the province to get things going.

They claim to go beyond brand monitoring by identifying what people are saying, who these people are, and what their tone is.

One recent practical application is mentions of Stephen Harper when parliament was prorogued. They also say it could be used for crisis communications, such as the recent Maple Leaf scare.

Privacy concerns are also raised by one marketing professor,

I’m no lawyer, but my general sense here is that there’ll be some noise in the system (from privacy advocates) about this. I think it’s user beware, and if you choose to blog, you’re putting stuff out into the public sphere.

I’m no lawyer either, but I would agree that if the information they are collecting is made publicly available by the user and only analyzed in the aggregate, there is little room to complain.

But the expertise is obviously greater here among the contributors and readers, so what do you think about this?

As for ads that watch you through a hidden video camera and use facial-recognition software, that’s a totally different issue.


  1. The only privacy issue I can see is the Facebook data. Twitter and blogs are publicly-accessible (for the most part; if not, it couldn’t be tracked anyway), but Facebook is mostly private. Depending on users’ privacy settings, the most useful data is generally private. This information can’t be accessed unless the user has low privacy settings OR the user has voluntarily installed a Facebook app developed by the analysis company. But even in those two case, Facebook’s terms of use for its data are fairly strict and the analysis company must tread carefully with any information it scrapes.

  2. Reading the article I felt like they hadn’t done research to see what tools already exist. I’m wondering how Sysomos compares to other monitoring services such as Techrigy and Canadian-developed Radian6. I do know, for example, Radian6 won’t monitor Facebook because that goes against the Facebook user agreement.

    But it seems like a lot of money may have been sunk into this project to reinvent the wheel.