The Data Transfer Project musters new troops

Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft have joined an open source initiative designed to help users transfer data across multiple online platforms services without facing privacy issues.

Established back in 2017, the newly expanded Data Transfer Project (DTP) is open source at its heart.

The Data Transfer Project (DTP) describes itself as a collaboration of organisations committed to building a common framework with open source code that can connect any two online service providers, enabling a seamless, direct, user initiated portability of data between the two platforms.

“Using [your own user] data [that exists in] one service when you sign up for another still isn’t as easy as it should be,” said Steve Satterfield, privacy and public policy director at Facebook.

Satterfield provided an example: a user might use an app to share photos publicly, a social networking app for updates with friends and a fitness app… but, he contends, the connection between those apps and the platforms those apps are is, today, far from seamless, or indeed secure.

API access

The Data Transfer Project uses services’ existing APIs (i.e. the Application Programming Interfaces belonging to those services in the first place) and authorisation mechanisms to access data.

The project’s software framework then uses service specific adapters to transfer that data into a common format, and then back into the new service’s API.

Craig Shank, VP corporate standards at Microsoft has said that 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.

“We encourage others in the industry to join us in advancing a broader view of the data portability ecosystem. This project launch is a starting point for that effort, and we look forward to working with our current and future partners to iterate on designs, improve the ways we serve our customers, and ensure people can benefit from the innovation and diversity of user choice that can be driven through greater portability,” said Shank.

A full white paper on the project is accessible here and the project’s GitHub page is here.

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