Facebook, Google, Microsoft & Twitter Partner to Simplify User Data Transfers

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Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter have announced a new open source standards initiative called Data Transfer Project (DTP) to help billions of users manage their data and help them transfer it between online services. This is as a per a report in the Economic Times.

Source: Simplilearn

The Data Transfer Project, currently in the early stages, will help users of one service to use their data to sign up for another service with encryption.

“Using your data from one service when you sign up for another still isn’t as easy as it should be. Today we’re excited to announce that we’re participating in the Data Transfer Project,” said Steve Satterfield, Privacy and Public Policy Director at Facebook in a statement.

In an official blogpost, Craig Shank, Vice President for Corporate Standards at Microsoft said “For people on slow or low bandwidth connections, service-to-service portability will be especially important where infrastructure constraints and expense make importing and exporting data to or from the user’s system impractical if not nearly impossible.”

Source: Recode

The initiative comes at a time when data-sharing is making headlines – be it the massive Cambridge Analytica data scandal or third-party apps accessing users’ data at various platforms – amid countries announcing new data-protection laws like the European General Data Regulation Protection (GDPR). Google continues to let hundreds of outside software developers scan the inboxes of millions of Gmail users who signed up for email-based services offering shopping price comparisons, automated travel-itinerary planners or other tools. Google does little to police those developers, who train their computers—and, in some cases, employees—to read their users’ emails, a Wall Street Journal examination has found.

One of those companies is Return Path Inc., which collects data for marketers by scanning the inboxes of more than two million people who have signed up for one of the free apps in Return Path’s partner network using a Gmail, Microsoft Corp. or Yahoo email address. Computers normally do the scanning, analyzing about 100 million emails a day. At one point about two years ago, Return Path employees read about 8,000 unredacted emails to help train the company’s software, people familiar with the episode say. This is as per a report in the Wall Street Journal dated 2nd July 2018.

Source: WSJ – Jeff Chiu of Associated Press

According to BleepingComputer.com,  the DTP framework is also useful for other things. For example, the four companies say, it could be leveraged to build tools and software to extract and back up data stored in social media profiles, or for creating tools that wipe out a user’s social presence.

Moving data between any two services can be complicated because every service is built differently and uses different types of data that may require unique privacy controls and settings.

“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.

“These are the kinds of issues the Data Transfer Project will tackle. The Project is in its early stages, and we hope more organisations and experts will get involved,” he added.

The Data Transfer Project uses services’ existing APIs and authorisation mechanisms to access data. It then uses service specific adapters to transfer that data into a common format, and then back into the new service’s API.

According to Google, the project will let users “transfer data directly from one service to another, without needing to download and re-upload it”.

The tech giants have released the code for the project on Github and released a white paper on this project. “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.

According to Damien Kieran, Data Protection Officer at Twitter, much of the online products and services we use do not interact with each other in a coherent and intuitive fashion.

“Information that is housed on one platform cannot be easily and securely transferred to other services. This is not a positive collective experience for the people who use our services and we are keen to work through some of the challenges as an industry,” Kieran said in a official blogpost.

Microsoft’s Shank said the Data Transfer Project partners believe “portability and interoperability are central to cloud innovation and competition” and asked other companies in the industry to join this initiative to advance a broader view of the data portability ecosystem.

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