Tech Giants Unveil Data Portability Project

The Data Transfer Project will enable consumers to transfer their data directly from one app to another, without needing to download and re-upload it.
Matthew HellerJuly 23, 2018

Four of the world’s tech giants have teamed up to develop new technology for moving data between apps, an approach they believe will ultimately lead to “universal data portability.”

Many internet platforms already offer some kind of data-download tool, but those tools rarely connect with other services. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Twitter are the first four members of the Data Transfer Project, which is developing tools that will enable consumers to transfer their data directly from one service to another, without needing to download and re-upload it.

The project members have so far used publicly available application programming interfaces (APIs) from Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, Remember the Milk, and SmugMug to transfer photos, mail, contacts, calendars, and tasks.

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“DTP will enhance the data portability ecosystem by reducing the infrastructure burden on both service providers and users, which should in turn increase the number of services offering portability,” a project white paper said. “The protocols and methodology of DTP enable direct, service-to-service data transfer with streamlined engineering work.”

According to TechCrunch, the initiative could be “a boon for startups” and “lower the barrier for people to experiment with new apps.”

“Meanwhile, the tech giants could argue that the government shouldn’t step in to regulate them or break them up because DTP means users are free to choose whichever app best competes for their data and attention,” TechCrunch added.

“If you’re concerned about the power of these platforms, portability is a way to balance that out,” Open Technology Institute director Kevin Bankston told The Verge.

Under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, consumers have a right to “receive personal data they have provided to a controller in a structured, commonly used and machine readable format” and request that a controller transmit the data directly to another controller.

The DTP will allow consumers “to import their information into any participating service that offers compelling features — even brand new ones that could rely on powerful, cloud-based infrastructure rather than the consumers’ potentially limited bandwidth and capability to transfer files,” Google said in a blog post.