Watch what you Tweet, because the government will be able to retrieve it for years-- or decades-- to come, according to a new report.
That's the lesson you can take from the Library of Congress' mandate to collect anything that may have long-term historical interest, says Federal News Radio.
Most digital data has at least a theoretical expiration under law, such as ISP browsing history. But tweets, it seems, will live forever.
Bill Lefurgy, digital initiatives program manager at the Library of Congress national digital information infrastructure and preservation program, made the government's policy on tweet collection pretty clear:
"We have an agreement with Twitter where they have a bunch of servers with their historic archive of tweets, everything that was sent out and declared to be public."
So protected (private) tweets are apparently not collected, but those placed in the public domain — billions and billions of tweets — will be stored in huge capacity servers.
It's already established government policy that the National Archives must preserve Tweets, emails and other electronic communications as "government documents." Given that intra-governmental communication is increasingly dominated by digital dissemination, this makes sense.
But the National Archives handles official government materials, whereas the Library of Congress has a much broader mission-- which now apparently covers anything anyone chooses to tweet out to the world.
"We're basically in the same situation as the National Archives, only on a much larger scale," Lefurgy said . "We tend to have a much larger perspective in terms of what we collect."
Plans are already in place to use the massive vaults of Tweets for "Data mining" purposes-- whatever that means.