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Telecom giant AT&T has filed a blockchain-oriented patent application to “map” social media histories. Titled “Blockchain-Based Social Media History Maps,” and published on Thursday, it describes a system of tracking social media history “on behalf of” subscribers. Presumably, such a service would be most useful to employers and prospective employers.

AT&T Eyes Blockchain for Social Media Scraping Tool

One of the specific categories the patent application describes tracking would also be “career interests.” Thus, we can presume that the service is not merely for tracking potentially negative social media activities. Instead, perhaps prospective employers might use it to find people potentially interested in their field.

The platform is not only aimed at tracking the activities of specific accounts, however. Another embodiment of it might be the tracking of trends in a non-siloed way. A service user could understand what people are talking about across platforms. This would negate having to use a separate account on each social media site to get data.

It can also be aimed at businesses who might want to know what people are saying on various platforms while in their establishments. Even casual users could find out what people in their sphere of influence are interested in. The data can be sorted by multiple categories including date and time or location.

“The information created or shared on social media applications is typically siloed by the application and/or platform on which it was created or shared. For example, if a user of multiple social media applications wants information about current trends at a particular time, information about the current trends at a particular location, or information about the behavior and activities of their friends, in general, at a particular location, or at a particular time, this information may not be available from a single media application. In general, the ability to track micro-culture transactions (i.e. a particular social media account including followers) by location, time and content may have enormous value in e-commerce, marketing, and targeted advertising.”

Will Users Retain Ownership of Data?

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One wonders who will actually own the data bundled into AT&T’s proposed social media “blockchain maps.”

The product as described can have a lot of different purposes. Creators of the content would retain ownership of the data in the blockchain social media mapping service. One advantage to the owner might be that the posts and tweets they make would remain in the blockchain map even if they were censored by the platform at large.

“The social media history map platforms described herein may take advantage of the immutable and permanent nature of blockchain records to store, and provide access to, data representing online transactions that occur on multiple social media applications. However, instead of passing ownership of blocks or data between users, a social media account owner maintains primary ownership of his or her online transaction data. What passes from the social media account owner to other users of the social media history map service, such as followers of the social media account owner, is a notion of elevated visibility rights.”

Some elements of the patent description might raise privacy concerns. In one section, the authors speak of tracking shopping behavior and all online behavior in general. A marketer’s dream might be having access to such information on a per-person basis. Targeted marketing could thus reach new heights. Nonetheless, there are various models where this could benefit both parties. One potential idea might involve an opt-in program where the user is compensated for volunteering information. Marketers would pay for access to it.

Accurate social media mapping technologies are relatively rare at the present time. Entire firms are devoted to accurately taking advantage of the various promotional abilities of each platform. There are several ways that social media mapping can benefit either the user or third-parties such as employers and marketers. One thing is for sure: if AT&T is awarded this patent, they’ll have a piece of all social media mapping which has some blockchain element, going forward.

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