Google, Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ: FB), Twitter, Inc. (NYSE: TWTR) and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) announced today that they will be working together on a new software initiative, the Data Transfer Project, to allow you to transfer data directly between the providers without having to download and re-upload.
The current version only supports data transfer for photos, mail, contacts, calendars and tasks from public APIs that could be accomplished through other apps. The participants of the project want to develop a more robust and flexible alternative.
The code for the project was posted on GitHub and according to The Verge, much of it consists of adapters that allow Instagram to be workable with Flickr and a system in place to encrypt data in transit, mostly focused on one-time transits. Much of the code has been done by Google and Microsoft engineers that were working on the idea of a robust data transfer system. The Product Manager for Google Takeout, Greg Fair, said the idea came about from a frustration with the available options for managing data after the download. There was no way to import the same data to a different service while Takeout only handled half the problem.
Most platforms offer a data-download tool, but the tools don’t connect with other services. Europe’s new GDPR legislation requires tools to provide all the available data of a user, including location history and facial recognition profiles that users don’t know are being collected. Download tools are used to show users that they own their data but owning it and using it have turned into different matters.
Amidst the Facebook privacy scandal with Cambridge Analytica, there is a limit to how much data companies want to share now. With the new project, Facebook emphasized maintaining API-level controls with a Facebook data download worker citing, “We always want to think about user data protection first. One of the things that’s nice about an API is that, as the data provider, we have the ability to turn off the pipeline or impose conditions on how they can use it. With a data download tool, the data leaves our hands, and it’s truly out there in the wild. If someone wants to use that data for bad purposes, Facebook truly cannot do anything about it.”