On the myth of data portability

An address book is useless without a compatible phone.

On the myth of data portability /img/data-portability-santa.jpg

A while ago, I came across somebody who had just proposed to include among the rules that any provider of digital communications of any sort, this obligation about data portability:

Data portability: obligation to give a user all her data, in a non-binary and documented format, to allow migration to other intermediaries.

Here is what I answered:

Data portability is almost useless

It seems to me that something really fundamental is missing here, something without which total data portability is absolutely useless: the so-called “adversarial interoperability”.

If I switch from, say, Facebook to vkontact, but the consequence is that I can no longer communicate directly with my contacts who ONLY have Facebook, having a complete copy of my Facebook “address book” is completely useless.

If, in order to read or write on a Facebook group, or receive the respective notifications, I have to open the Facebook application or website EVERY SINGLE TIME, I am forced to waste time and be tracked.

Decent communication systems, instead, MUST allow read and write access even with standard protocols/formats.

Facebook and everybody else must go back to 2012

Facebook and any other social media platform must provide much more than data portability as defined above.

They MUST provide ALL notifications and FULL feeds of all posts from contacts, internal groups etc, even via systems like RSS or email. And they MUST allow users to write posts to each of those groups with non-proprietary protocols.

In other words, EVERY social media provider MUST do what Facebook did ten years ago, when I could practice and teach a very simple method to access Facebook without going to Facebook.

A few months after that tutorial, however, Facebook removed that capability without warning.

Then, for ten years now, everyone including politicians and illustrious professors worldwide wasted ten years trying to solve the growing abuses from social media platforms with all sorts of very learned law proposals with a recurring characteristic: being as necessary, adequate and effective to solve social media abuse as removing a kidney to cure a mole on one’s hand.

Let’s see what the NEXT ten years will bring, hoping it isn’t more useless data portability.

Image source: screenshots from Cartoon: GDPR Data Portability