Four web giants have signed up to a project to make it easier to transfer data between different online services. Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter are all working on the Data Transfer Project.
The project has been described as making it easier to leave a service, though it’s more about moving the data itself. It doesn’t directly address making sure a company you no longer want to deal with will delete the data it has on you.
The idea is to deal with two different aspects of transferring the data that are major hold-ups to users who currently try to do things manually. One is the actual logistics of moving the data and the other is making sure the data is in a recognized and usable format when it gets there.
The former is largely being taken care of through the same combinations of APIs and authentication systems (such as OAuth) that are already used in situations such as using your Facebook login to access another service without manually creating a new account. The idea is to include confirmation screens that explain what data the new service can access and what it can do with that data, similar to the permissions systems on some mobile device app.
The other half of the project is making sure the data remains consistent (and usable). One of the main ways the project does this is to create and use a standard model for each of the most common types of online data (such as a playlist for music tracks).
The companies in the project won’t necessarily use this model in their own services, but rather have agreed that they will take it into consideration when creating or updating services. The idea is that when somebody transfers data it can go from the first service’s format into the standard data model, and can then move from the standard data model to the second service’s format.
If everything works as designed, that should mean that even if your data on the second service isn’t an exact replica of the original data on the first service, it should be similar enough in functional terms.