By Prarthana Mitra
On Friday, four of the world’s leading tech giants came together to make data management and transfer across various platforms, easier and secure. Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft formally announced their Data Transfer Project (DTP), an open source initiative that could help billions of users seamlessly transfer data across multiple online services without facing privacy issues.
.@Microsoft wants to empower individuals to control their own data. Today we announce the Data Transfer Project, an open source data portability project aimed at helping people move their data securely and seamlessly between platforms & providers: https://t.co/QiyvCzvDyg
— Julie Brill (@JulieSBrill) July 20, 2018
Here’s what we know about DTP so far
According to Damien Kieran, Data Protection Officer at Twitter, most of the online services we use right now do not interact with each other in a coherent and intuitive fashion. Formed in 2017, the DTP is expected to bridge this gap and introduce service-to-service data portability through its open-source platform.
The project is expected to roll out in phases, starting with ensuring data portability from one service to another with encrypted signups, said Steve Satterfield, Privacy and Public Policy Director at Facebook.
— Josh Constine (@JoshConstine) July 20, 2018
Moving data around different platforms is complicated by different design, data requirement, and unique privacy control & settings for each service. “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,” said Satterfield, adding that the DTP would be instrumental in resolving these issues.
Using the services’ existing APIs and authorisation mechanisms, the DTP can access data entered into one system and enable you to transfer it without having to download and then re-uploading it. With the help of service-specific adapters, the data-sharing network first transfers the data into a common format, and then transfers it to the new service’s API.
Data Transfer Project (DTP) is a collaboration between @Microsoft @google @facebook & @twitter "so that all individuals across the web could easily move their data between online service providers whenever they want." https://t.co/NlwjOJBkaW pic.twitter.com/4uyftWXTah
— Bill Johnston (@billjohnston) July 20, 2018
Challenges for the industry
Data sharing is a dodgy territory today, especially in the wake of Cambridge Analytica and various other allegations levied against Google and Facebook for sharing user information with third-party applications. As much as tech corporations would like to evade accountability, the data stratosphere is under massive scrutiny, and international bodies like the EU have even announced new data-protection laws like the European General Data Regulation Protection (GDPR).
Great news: Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter have joined to announce the Data Transfer Project, a new way to move data between platforms. Follows on from GDPR, which grants individuals the right to data portability. https://t.co/11oPSA7lDa via @tabithagold
— Evan O'Connell (@evanoconnell) July 20, 2018
From the Data Liberation Front, to Takeout, to the Data Transfer Project, we've invested in data portability for more than 10 years. Excited to work with @Microsoft @Twitter and @facebook to build tools that put consumers in control of their information: https://t.co/WkugKc5HIx
— Google Public Policy (@googlepubpolicy) July 20, 2018
“The future of portability will need to be more inclusive, flexible, and open. Our hope for this project is that it will enable a connection between any two public-facing product interfaces for importing and exporting data directly,” read the white paper released by the tech giants. With this, the DTP could be the future of data sharing and contribute to a more positive collective experience for online service users.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.