Welcome to the Era of Data Portability – Facebook, Google, Microsoft, & Twitter Making It Easier to Transfer Your Data Between Platforms

Jul 20, 2018
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Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Twitter are collaborating on a new open source data portability project to make it easier for users to transfer their data between these websites. Known as the Data Transfer Project (DTP), the initiative was launched last year but officially unveiled today. The Project is in the early stages and aims to include more companies as it progresses.

As noted during our previous coverage, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requires tech companies to offer means of data portability to their users to ensure they can take their data wherever they wish to even if they want to close some specific account. GDPR demands companies to provide all of the data stored on a user “in a structured, commonly used and machine-readable format,” so that they can take that data to another company at any time they want.

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While the DTP doesn't directly mention GDPR, it is likely that the stricter EU privacy rules served as a driving force for this project.

Facing high pressure to strengthen their security protections and questions over their monopoly, it now appears some of the biggest names of the tech industry are ready to offer at least the basic means of data portability. Google wrote in its statement today:

This idea, called “data portability,” gives people greater control of their information, and pushes us to develop great products because we know they can pack up and leave at any time.

Twitter in its statement said that the project makes it easier for users to "choose among services," thereby encouraging competition and empowering everyone to try new services. In its statement, Microsoft said that "for people on slow or low bandwidth connections, service-to-service portability will be especially important where infrastructure constraints and expense make importing and exporting data to or from the user’s system impractical if not nearly impossible."

How does Data Transfer Project (DTP) work

The Data Transfer Project will enable users to transfer their files between websites without having to download and re-upload them. Companies that are part of DTP will allow users to directly transfer their content including contacts, photos, mail, tasks, and calendars between websites.

Since the data will be encrypted during the transfer, the process is expected to be secure.

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While most of the major platforms offer at least some kind of tool to download data stored on a particular user, it means nothing if that data cannot be easily ported to another website. With DTP, partner companies are creating a more straightforward approach to data portability.

At the moment, it is unlikely if a Facebook user will decide to leave the platform for another social networking company taking their data with them since there is barely any competition. However, this feature could enable new competing platforms to attract users by offering them to bring their old data onboard.

"Data portability makes it easy for consumers to try new services and use the ones that they like best," Google said hinting that DTP can eventually lead to more competition. "We’re thrilled to help drive an initiative that incentivizes companies large and small to continue innovating across the internet."

- Statements available: Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Twitter | More information available in this whitepaper (PDF) and over on the DTP website

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