Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft Partner to Share Data
Seeming monopolies partner to share data? It appears so. While the language announcing the “Data Transfer Project” involving Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft is couched in consumer-friendly terms, with Google’s blog post saying the open-source project will mean consumers can “import their information into any participating service,” the timing is coincidental with GDPR-like legislation and antitrust talk occurring in the U.S.
Russell Brandom of The Verge hypothesizes on Friday that the move to make user data portable in the U.S. that’s in-line with E.U. GDPR requirements is meant to manage risk. He writes of that day’s announcement from Google:
Tech companies are facing more aggressive antitrust concerns than ever before, many of them centering on data access. The biggest tech companies have few competitors. And as they face new questions about federal regulation and monopoly power, sharing data could be one of the least painful ways to rein themselves in.
It’s an unlikely remedy for companies that are reeling from data privacy scandals, but it’s one that outsiders like Open Technology Institute director Kevin Bankston have been pushing as more important than ever, particularly for Facebook. “My primary goal has been to make sure that the value of openness doesn’t get forgotten,” Bankston says. “If you’re concerned about the power of these platforms, portability is a way to balance that out.”
More companies can join the project, Google’s Brian Willard, software engineer and Greg Fair, product manager, write in the blog post on Friday:
It is very early days for the Data Transfer Project and we encourage the developer community to join us and help extend the platform to support many more data types, service providers, and hosting solutions.
The Data Transfer Project’s open source code can be found at datatransferproject.dev and you can learn more about Google’s approach to portability in our paper, [Opens as a PDF] where we describe our history with this topic and the values and principles that motivated us to invest in the Data Transfer Project. Our prototype already supports data transfer for several product verticals including: photos, mail, contacts, calendar, and tasks. These are enabled by existing, publicly available APIs from Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, Remember the Milk, and Smugmug.
Another reason for brands to join the project data portability provides consumers with more incentive to try new products from other companies, the Google Open Source Blog post says.
The Data Transfer Project site says how organizations can participate:
We welcome everyone to participate, the more expertise and viewpoints we have contributing to the project the more successful it will be.
- If you are a company that wants to add an integration to allow your users to easy import and export data: Learn More
- If you are an individual that wants to contribute technically, please see our contributions guide: Learn More
- If you want to be involved in non-technical aspects of the project, you can join the discussion at dtp-discuss or email the maintainers at email@example.com
Although the DTP site says the companies started working on the endeavor last year, this data-sharing project seems like an about-face for Facebook, especially, considering its stance during congressional questioning regarding the Cambridge Analytica scandal that other companies share consumer data, too. An April 16 post in TechCrunch points out:
Facebook product management director David Baser wrote, “Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn all have similar Like and Share buttons to help people share things on their services. Google has a popular analytics service. And Amazon, Google and Twitter all offer login features. These companies — and many others — also offer advertising services. In fact, most websites and apps send the same information to multiple companies each time you visit them.” Describing how Facebook receives cookies, IP address and browser info about users from other sites, he noted, “when you see a YouTube video on a site that’s not YouTube, it tells your browser to request the video from YouTube. YouTube then sends it to you.”
What do you think, marketers?
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