The source of the contention is
The Market Research Association (MRS), who, in a recent discussion paper have said that social media listening should only be conducted with the explicit permission of users.

I found this following a conversation and a blog Leonard Murphy from Greenbook blog on market research, his article and thoughts can be found here, mine are below:

There are a number of inconsistencies with the information reported

In particular it selectively quotes the FB T&Cs:
If you collect information from users, you will: obtain their consent, make it clear you (and not Facebook) are the one collecting their information, and post a privacy policy explaining what information you collect and how you will use it

This refers to applications which sit within Facebook and which deal with opt-in consent for applications not for publically available data. It does not reference the rest of their terms and conditions or their privacy policy.

Facebook is clear that:
“Everyone” Information. Information set to “everyone” is publicly available information, just like your name, profile picture, and connections. Such information may, for example, be accessed by everyone on the Internet (including people not logged into Facebook), be indexed by third party search engines, and be imported, exported, distributed, and redistributed by us and others without privacy limitations.
Such information may also be associated with you, including your name and profile picture, even outside of Facebook, such as on public search engines and when you visit other sites on the internet. The default privacy setting for certain types of information you post on Facebook is set to “everyone.” You can review and change the default settings in your privacy settings. If you delete “everyone” content that you posted on Facebook, we will remove it from your Facebook profile, but have no control over its use outside of Facebook.

Twitter is even more explicit
Our Services are primarily designed to help you share information with the world. Most of the information you provide to us is information you are asking us to make public.
and continues

Your public information is broadly and instantly disseminated. For example, your public Tweets are searchable by many search engines and are immediately delivered via SMS and our APIs ( to a wide range of users and services. You should be careful about all information that will be made public by Twitter, not just your Tweets.

National Constitutions
The references to the national constitutions are implicitly relative to tapping into communications which are assumed to be private e.g. telephones. Not to conversations which by definition the user has made public or has agreed should be public. Users already have the right to be private, services like twitter and blogs simply give everyone a public voice.

Where there may be an argument, forums
Perhaps online forums could be constituted as private or public meetings which could arguably be deemed as inappropriate to monitor without consent. Again the T&Cs of these sites would need to be checked on a case by case basis.

Overall I personally feel that this white paper is poorly researched and biased.

These views are my personal views and not those of any current or past employer or affiliated organisation.

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