Facebook, Twitter, Google & Microsoft partner to launch the Data Transfer Project

Now that we’re two months out from the GDPR’s rollout, four tech giants are coming together to launch a new initiative that aims to build an open-source framework focused on data portability. Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft announced they are partnering up for The Data Transfer Project (DTP) – an open-source initiative aiming to offer a framework upon which any company can create tools that enable people to transfer their data easily from one platform to another – without having to download and re-upload it.

“Right now, much of the online products and services we use do not interact with each other in a coherent and intuitive fashion”, writes Twitter’s data protection officer, Damien Kieran, in a blog post announcing the project. “Information that is housed on one platform can not 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.”

In addition to supporting data portability, the DTP’s open-source nature will make the processes involved transparent.  Kieren writes, “In keeping with our overarching principles around transparency and accountability, this process of information sharing between our companies and the related work streams will be open for all to scrutinize, critique, and to build off.”

In a white paper on the project, the companies write that the “vision for this project is that it will enable a connection between any two public-facing product interfaces for importing and exporting data directly. This is especially important for users in emerging markets, or on slow or metered connections, as our project does not require a user to upload and download the data over what may be low bandwidth connections and at potentially significant personal expense.”

Facebook, Twitter, Google & Microsoft partner to launch the Data Transfer Project

Google says organizations currently involved in DTP are creating tools that can convert any service’s proprietary APIs to and from a small set of standardized data formats.

“This makes it possible to transfer data between any two providers using existing industry-standard infrastructure and authorization mechanisms, such as OAuth”, Google software engineer Brian Willard and Google product manager Greg Fair write on the Google Open Source blog. “So far, we have developed adapters for seven different service providers across five different types of consumer data.”

Facebook, which has faced scrutiny in the US and a fined by the EU over its data practices, says the four companies are “… committed to building a common way for people to transfer data into and out of online services.” The company says that the DTP initiative is in the early stages, and it hopes more organizations and experts will get involved.

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