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Eavesdropper: You can takeout the data anytime, but can you leave?

The Financial Express logo The Financial Express 25-10-2020 Ishaan Gera
a close up of a sign: Similarly, while Google allows a takeout of data from its 47 services via its website takeout.google.com, portability with other services is still an issue. © Provided by The Financial Express Similarly, while Google allows a takeout of data from its 47 services via its website takeout.google.com, portability with other services is still an issue.

Last week, Google announced that it would be making it easier for users to export albums from Google and create a backup elsewhere. While users could export images from Google, the service did not allow them to export albums. Making it difficult to categorise images.

Companies have been trying to increasingly make it easier for users to access their data. The real transformation has been by Facebook. Earlier this year, Facebook started rolling out its service, which allows users to export their pictures directly to Google drive. This is the first attempt by any company to allow the transfer of data to another service. And, a first in data portability.

While Google, Facebook and others started their take out or data retrieval or liberation projects nearly a decade ago, it was only in 2018 that the two tech giants along with Microsoft, Apple and Twitter entered into a consortium to make data portability easier.

Called the data transfer project, the project asks developers to create data portability requests for all partners, so that data can be moved seamlessly.

However, besides, Facebook, none of the others have allowed data portability. Users can still export data and use it elsewhere. But the data only has limited applications. For instance, Twitter allows you to retrieve messages and tweets, but not all data can be transferred to rivals like Mastodon.

Similarly, while Google allows a takeout of data from its 47 services via its website takeout.google.com, portability with other services is still an issue.

Calendar, contacts and Google drive files are an easy transfer as they have common formats, but transferring mail is an issue. Maps are also difficult to transfer, as there aren’t many rivals, and they do not allow Google Maps to integrate automatically.

Calendar data can be exported to Outlook, to view Gmail on outlook users either have to purchase a converter or download a different mail client. Google’s mail is in the Mbox format, while Outlook allows PST file. And, the converter costs Rs 2,499.

A workaround is to download Thunderbird and transfer all your mails to the service and then convert them to PST files. Some mails are lost in transition, but that is the price of getting things for free.

Maps are even more difficult to navigate. Suppose you are an iPhone user trying to toggle between Google Maps and Apple Maps, in that case, you either have to copy-paste data individually or download a paid app, Opener, which allows limited transition.

Playlist transfers are not allowed across services. Google allows you to download names in a CSV version. Hence, the transition from say an Apple Music to Spotify is even more difficult. However, free services allow one-time transfers. This is only limited to one playlist at a time; for more transfers there usually is a charge.

But as more companies join the data transfer project, things are expected to change. More important, as companies require payment for data, the demand for such services will only rise. Until then, users can only turn to hacks to get the best value for money proposition.

ishaan.gera@expressindia.com

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