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Google’s Making Data Portability Safety a Priority


When you hear “Google Takeout,” you might start to conjure up the celebrity-laden “Uber Eats” commercials promoting food deliveries and think Google is having its turn. But not so fast. Google’s “takeout” has nothing to do with pizza, Kung Pao chicken, or sushi rolls. The only thing they’re delivering is the convenience of transferable data.

Here’s what that means. 

Have you ever used a Google account, be it personal, work or school, and, for whatever reason, had a totally separate account and wished the information from account A could suddenly exist within account B? Well, voila! That, my friend, is the Takeout app.

Setting data free

This free feature is available to any Google account holder. It can easily be used to back up data on a Google account, get an overview of data files or export information from one digital location to another. It was launched by one of Google’s engineering teams, under the moniker Data Liberation Front in 2011, after four years in development. 

Originally, it targeted downloading data from Google+ (remember that once-promising social media contender?) and other features like Contacts and Circles. The Data Liberation Front was founded on the principle of facilitating the process of “liberating” Google products – from 27 in 2011 to more than 70 now – and migrating data once a business or individual is no longer using its services. A very mature and amicable break-up, if you will.

How does Google Takeout work?

Who’s actually using Takeout? According to Google, 8.2 million exports on average are done per month, and between 2019 and 2021, files that were exported using the Takeout app doubled from 200 billion to 400 billion. That’s no small feat. The tech giant is driven to “move data portability forward” and continues to launch new portability tool features and improve upon existing ones for the user’s convenience. For example, recent changes within the last few years have been the ability to directly transfer photos from Google Photos to other platforms like Microsoft OneDrive and Flickr. Even more recently, the company has made controls more granular, giving users the option to transfer specific albums instead of the entire library.

Have portability, will safely migrate data industry-wide

What started as an efficient data migration tool has expanded across platforms, a conjoining effort of sorts, as the Data Transfer Project, or DTP. It was founded by Google to improve data portability industry-wide in 2018 and is being managed under the umbrella of Google along with other leading tech companies like SmugMug, Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook, and Apple.

Five aspects about Google’s secure data portability movement

  1. Banking on investments. In March of this year, Google announced its five-year plan to invest hundreds of engineering hours and $3 million into moving data from and within its and other companies’ services.
  2. Internet users unite! Internet users of all walks of life and service providers are able to test out different services without the penalty of losing time or data, minus the tedious burden of adding storage.
  3. Like a good neighbor. Google is lending its proverbial cup of sugar to companies and organizations that may not have the bounty of data engineering resources it has. The search engine giant is allowing smaller businesses to use DTP’s open-source code, so their people can also easily move data to other services.
  4. Land and expand. We can all agree that data usage, storage, and the need to keep it safe is here to stay. With that, Google’s five-year plan will continue the work of its Data Liberation Front task force launched in 2007 and take a leap of good faith to expand both its DTP privileges to more businesses and open source libraries that manage other types of data.
  5. Better together. Google intends to press forward by supporting and collaborating with companies and researchers working on portability and interoperability in order to develop industry-wide guidelines and standards.

What it boils down to

The idea of data liberation means more than just mobility. By establishing easy, accessible tools to transfer data, people no longer need to worry about losing their contacts, emails, photos and other important information when they switch online services. This also provides an opportunity for innovation as well as competition, and encourages businesses to offer better products and services. Data portability is pro-people’s choice. And that’s a good thing.

But by opening the floodgates on data transference, Google is setting up guardrails for safety measures. As it continues to deliver on its data protection plan and partner with other data-responsible organizations, it’s also laying out the rules on data protection: put people first, require exportability, and prioritize privacy and security.  

Use it, so you don’t figuratively lose it

But, let’s not digress. While the big picture is ensuring we have a future that protects our privacy, and securely moves and stores our data, the point is the tools and features of Google’s flagship solution to data portability, Takeout app, is committed to powering and protecting data portability. So yes, the usefulness of the Takeout app is kind of a big deal. You don’t have to lose your… wits about transferring your information between services anymore. The Takeout app served as the catalyst to DTP’s data safety and security efforts, and continues to be a convener for releasing data to be unbound, regardless of it being born and bred by Google.

Down to how-to basics

Now that you have a full understanding of the what and the why, let’s take it back to basics with how to use Takeout. 

Google’s rather handy app is quite effortless to execute. The data-transferring app gives you two options: the first is transferring information from one Google account to another; the second is transferring information from a Google account to a non-Google account. Let’s start with the Google-to-Google transfer.

Google-to-Google data transfer

  1. To start, you need to be signed in to the account you want to extract data from, then click on the photo icon in the upper right corner and click Manage your Google Account.
  2. Next, scroll down to Transfer your content and click on Start transfer. This takes you to the URL: takeout.google.com/transfer.
  3. Enter the address where you want the information transferred, and click send code. Go to that email to retrieve the code sent to verify you’re you. Copy and paste the code, then click Verify.
  4. Confirm the details: the account transferring data will be on the left, and on the right will be where the account receiving the transfer.
  5. Then, click Start transfer (you’ll need to enter your password for security), and that’s it!

There’ll be a message that says the transfer succeeded and how much time it will take to finish. You’ll receive an email once it’s completed.

Google-to-non-Google data transfer

This one is a tad faster!

  1. Navigate to google.takeout.com. Here, you’ll see a list of Google products. Select/unselect the desired products to export. Then scroll down to the bottom and select Next step.
  2. You’ll be given a dropdown menu. Choose where you’re sending it to, the default option is email, but available options are: Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive and Box.
  3. Then select the export frequency: once or every two months for a year.
  4. After that, select the file type & size. The options for types are .zip or .tgz, and for size, are 1GB, 2GB or 4GB.
  5. Finally, click Create export and then  Download and you’re done!

Who’s in control?

Are you wondering how the transference of confidential information belonging to work or school could be so easily movable? Well, there is a caveat in place to protect intellectual properties and sensitive, or simply private, information. Administrators of school and work Google accounts can turn Google Takeout on or off, controlling who has access to it.

The Google Takeout app helps you protect your digital assets easily and at no cost to you. When you imagine all the things that could go wrong online with important data stored, from precious memories captured in photos to lifesaving downloads from Internet outages to clearing space on Google Drive, having an app that makes data portability safe and simple while making your life a little easier is a no-brainer.