Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Twitter partner for ‘the future of portability’

Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Twitter announced an open-source collaboration hosted on Github, called the ‘Data Transfer Project’ (DTP). It is a service-to-service data portability platform designed with the aim to help ‘all individuals across the web to easily move their data between online service providers whenever they want’. In a blog post, Microsoft noted that ‘Creating these tools in an open-source, inclusive, multi-stakeholder community-driven ecosystem will also help service providers understand and enable data portability more effectively.’ Among the key development principles around interoperability and portability to promote user choice, encourage responsible product development, and maximise benefits for users are:

  • Build for users

  • Use strong privacy and security standards

  • Focus on a user’s data, not enterprise data

  • Respect everyone.

In a separate blog post, Google looks back in history. In 2007, a group of engineers formed the Data Liberation Front, that ‘believed consumers should have better tools to put their data where they want, when they want, and even move it to a different service’. In 2011, the ‘Takeout’ was launched as a platform where all user data is in portable and open formats which also makes it easy to import to other services quickly. Today, the Takeout goes under the name ‘Download Your Data’, and ‘users can download a machine-readable copy of the data they have stored in 50+ Google products, with more on the way’. In relation to the Data Transfer Project (DTP), Microsoft emphasised the importance of data security and privacy as a foundation for the design, stating that: ‘All credentials and user data will be encrypted both in transit and at rest. The protocol uses a form of perfect forward secrecy where a new unique key is generated for each transfer. Additionally, the framework allows partners to support any authorisation mechanism they choose.