Facebook, Twitter, Google, Microsoft Want to Help People Move Data Between Online Services

The four tech giants joined the Data Transfer Project

The Data Transfer Project welcomed some heavy hitters Data Transfer Project
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The Data Transfer Project, which was formed last year with the mission of creating an open-source, service-to-service data-portability platform, welcomed some heavy hitters Friday, as Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft are all on board.

The DTP described itself as “a collaboration of organizations committed to building a common framework with open-source code that can connect any two online service providers, enabling a seamless, direct, user-initiated portability of data between the two platforms.”

This is accomplished by using services’ existing application-programming interfaces and authorization mechanisms to access data, and then using service-specific adapters to transfer that data into a common format and, finally, to the new service’s API.

The DTP said on its website, “Users should be in control of their data on the web, and part of this is the ability to move their data. Currently, users can download a copy of their data from most services, but that is only half the battle in terms of moving their data. DTP aims to make moving data between providers significantly easier for users.”

The group also provided some use cases in its white paper:

  • A user discovers a new photo printing service offering beautiful and innovative photo book formats, but their photos are stored in their social media account. With the Data Transfer 5 Project, they could visit a website or app offered by the photo printing service and initiate a transfer directly from their social media platform to the photo book service.
  • A user doesn’t agree with the privacy policy of their music service. They want to stop using it immediately, but don’t want to lose the playlists they have created. Using this open-source software, they could use the export functionality of the original provider to save a copy of their playlists to the cloud. This enables them to import the playlists to a new provider, or multiple providers, once they decide on a new service.
  • A company is getting requests from customers who would like to import data from a legacy provider that is going out of business. The legacy provider has limited options for letting customers move their data. The company writes an adapter for the legacy provider’s APIs that permits users to transfer data to the company’s service, also benefiting other providers that handle the same data type.
  • A user in a low-bandwidth area has been working with an architect on drawings and graphics for a new house. At the end of the project, they both want to transfer all the files from a shared storage system to the user’s cloud storage drive. They go to the cloud storage Data Transfer Project user interface and move hundreds of large files directly, without straining their bandwidth.
  • An industry association for supermarkets wants to allow customers to transfer their purchase history from one member grocer to another so that they can get coupons based on buying habits between stores. The association would do this by hosting an industry-specific host platform of the DTP.

Facebook privacy and public policy director Steve Satterfield said in a Newsroom post: “Moving your data between any two services can be complicated because every service is built differently and uses different types of data that may require unique privacy controls and settings. For example, you might use an app where you share photos publicly, a social networking app where you share updates with friends and a fitness app for tracking your workouts. People increasingly want to be able to move their data among different kinds of services like these, but they expect that the companies that help them do that will also protect their data.”

Twitter data protection officer Damien Kieran added in a blog post, “At Twitter, we feel strongly that portability and interoperability are central to innovation on the internet. We believe that more frictionless, individually driven forms of data transfer between online platforms and services will result in an innovative, creative and people-first online experience for all. Making it easier for users to choose among services also facilitates competition, empowering everyone to try new services and choose the offering that best suits their individual needs. This facilitative and collaborative spirit of openness is the principled bedrock of our free and open internet. It is a principle we at Twitter are dedicated to furthering.”

david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.