Data Transfer Project comprising Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter

On the 20th of July, 2018, four of the largest tech companies have officially reported to join in on a very interesting project – Data Transfer Project (DTP). The four companies are – Google, Microsoft, Facebook as well as Twitter.

What is this Data Transfer Project (DTP)?

DTP is basically an initiative that tends to help users to transfer their data easily between various services. The data includes mails, media, contacts, tasks, calendars, etc. The APIs are from the four companies as well as from Instagram, Flickr, Remember the Milk and SmugMug.

In 2017, DTP was first formed. DTP tends to create an open-source, service-to-service data portability platform. With this, every individual, globally, could easily move their data between online service providers whenever they want.

It’ll use services’ APIs and authorization mechanisms to pull the original data. It would then use “service specific adapters” to transfer the data into a common format and push it to the target service using the target’s API.

The announcement follows the introduction of GDPR in the EU and it has the following features

  • It’s easily accessible by the users.
  • It uses strong security and privacy standards.
  • It doesn’t focus on enterprise-data, rather it focuses on a particular user’s data.
  • The project respects Private information.

What does Google and Microsoft have to say about it?

Most of the coding is done by Google and Microsoft and this is how Google describes DTP in their blog post

“Letting users transfer data directly from one service to another, without needing to download and re-upload it.”

Microsoft too mentioned about it on their own blog post, asking more companies to sign onto the effort. A key point mentioned by them is –

 “Portability and interoperability are central to cloud innovation and competition.”

Microsoft’s, VP for Corporate Standards – Craig Shankcommented on its open source nature

“This open source project will create new capabilities for direct data portability between participating service providers. While users can often download copies of their data to a local or online storage location, this project facilitates direct portability of user data between cloud services. The Data Transfer Project’s goal is to extend data portability in the cloud, allowing users to directly transfer their data in and out of any participating provider. As an open-source project, it is designed to encourage as broad a participation by as many service providers as possible.”

DTP’s Whitepaper –

The project is in its early stages but the code can be available from GitHub or via Docker and Code. But for it to work you’ll need each service’s API keys.

There is also a white paper along with their own website which can be looked out for more information and to find out about the project’s scope. Much of the code-base consists of “adapters” that can translate proprietary APIs into an interoperable transfer.
Between those adapters, engineers have also built a system to encrypt the data in transit, issuing forward-secret keys for each transaction. The system focuses on one-time transfers.

What does Facebook and Twitter have to say about it?

Steve Satterfield, Privacy & Public Policy Director at Facebook, said –

“Today we’re excited to announce that we’re participating in the Data Transfer Project, a collaboration of organizations, including Google, Microsoft and Twitter, committed to building a common way for people to transfer data into and out of online services.”

Twitter said the following regarding DTP –

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.”

When will it be available?

Unfortunately there is no answer to this because none of the four companies have announced a time frame for the completion of the project.
But Twitter’s Damien Kieran acknowledged that the project will “take time”.

Also according to the product manager of Google TakeoutGreg Fair,

“In the long term, we want there to be a consortium of industry leaders, consumer groups, government groups. But until we have a reasonable critical mass, it’s not an interesting conversation.”

As of yet, DTP doesn’t include another big market – Apple. But it’s a good initiative which could in fact get various other partners, and maybe even Apple in the future.

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Navaneetha Suresh

Navaneetha Suresh

Navaneetha, commonly known as "nav", loves to read, play badminton, play the keyboard and sing but when she's not doing any of those, she loves to write. What started as a high school hobby to write is now her ongoing passion.

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