Technology

Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter Unite To Let You Transfer Data Between Apps

Transfer Data Between Apps Data Transfer Project
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Many times you might have felt the need for a tool that allows you to transfer data between apps. Unfortunately, there is no such tool now, but Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter are coming together to develop one as part of their Data Transfer Project (DTP).

What is the Data Transfer Project?

Though many apps allow a user to download their information from them, such data is of little use because users can’t upload it elsewhere. To address this, Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft teamed up on what they’re calling the Data Transfer Project. It’s a plan to develop an open-source data portability platform which any online service can join. The DTP tool is not ready yet, but the tech giants shared some details about how it will work via a white paper.

“The future of portability will need to be more inclusive, flexible, and open,” reads the white paper. “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.”

The Data Transfer Project officially came into existence last year. Though there has been noise about it on platforms like GitHub, the group just revealed its intentions today. The primary objective of the project is to improve data portability by allowing users to not only download their data, but also transfer it to any other online service of their choice.

For instance, Facebook has a tool that allows users to download all the data the social network holds on them. However, the only thing users can currently utilize that data for in its current form is to make changes to their Facebook profile. With DTP, the tech giants will make it easy for users to easily transfer their data from Facebook directly to another app.

Greg Fair, product manager for Google Takeout, told The Verge they decided to create a tool to transfer data between apps due to frustration with the limited number of options for managing data after it has been downloaded.

“When people have data, they want to be able to move it from one product to another, and they can’t,” he said. “It’s a problem that we can’t really solve alone.”

Startups to benefit from a tool to transfer data between apps

In addition to users, a tool to transfer data between apps will be very helpful for startups. With such a tool, it will be much easier for new companies to get the needed data for a service, such as by porting playlists, pulling data from fitness trackers, or transferring photos and videos.

“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,” the project’s website states.

Going ahead, if DTP does gain industry-wide momentum, it will also encourage users to try new apps. However, DTP’s success will depend a lot on the intentions of the founding partners, like if they are ready cooperate fully or only up to a certain level. Having minimal government intervention will also play a crucial in the development of DTP. The tech giants would not want authorities to hold them back because in its truest sense, DTP means users are free to choose the apps they want to use.

The project’s white paper of the project explains that DTP will achieve its objective by using adapters to crack APIs into understandable data packets. There will be two types of adapters: import and export data adapters and authentication adapters, which will facilitate verification and protection of users. DTP will support all data types, including email, contacts, calendars and tasks.

Why now?

DTP’s announcement follows the introduction of GDPR in the EU. The GDPR legislation lays down the requirement for several consumer-focused protections, including a data download tool for users. One might argue that DTP has nothing to do with the EU’s new requirements because it will be for everyone, but it wouldn’t be wrong to say the new regulations might have accelerated or formalized the DTP group.

DTP also comes at a time when tech giants are being regularly scrutinized over the handling of user data. Facebook’s API was at the heart of the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal, which triggered debates over user data all over the world. Google has also been involved in an API scandal over the mishandling of Gmail users’ data by third-party email apps. Thus, tech giants may be seeing the new consortium as a way to manage the risks associated with handling user data, such as by spreading the responsibility across more groups.