Google, Microsoft, Twitter, and Facebook have joined forces to unveil a Data Transfer Project, an open source initiative to develop tools that will enable consumers to transfer their data directly from one service to another.
The companies involved are developing tools that can convert any service's proprietary APIs to and from a small set of standardized data formats that can be used by anyone.
This will enable people to transfer data between any two providers using existing industry-standard infrastructure and authorization mechanisms, such as OAuth.
The individuals are required to authenticate each account independently. All credentials and user data will be encrypted both in transit and at rest. The protocol uses a form of perfect forward secrecy where a new unique key is generated for each transfer.
Craig Shank, Microsoft's vice president for corporate standards said: "Data portability between services is an important, simple concept and a deeply complex technology challenge. 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."
Brian Willard, Google software engineer and Greg Fair, product manager in a blog post said: "Data portability makes it easy for consumers to try new services and use the ones that they like best. We’re thrilled to help drive an initiative that incentivizes companies large and small to continue innovating across the internet. We’re just getting started and we’re looking forward to what comes next."
The step comes after both Twitter and Facebook were accused of selling data to political data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica.