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What is Google Data Liberation?

Samyak Lalit | June 1, 2012 (Last update: July 16, 2017)

Samyak Lalit is an Indian author and disability rights activist. He is the principal author and founder of projects like TechWelkin, WeCapable, Viklangta, Kavita Kosh among many others.

“Does Google know a lot about us?”, well, the answer is yes. Not only Google but all major online services we use collect data about users to understand them better. A few years, Do Not Track initiative brought a ray of hope for user privacy.

But is it possible to ask these big companies to remove all the data that we uploaded on their servers? At least in case of Google, now the answer is yes. You might have heard, recently Google agreed to remove data of users under Right to be Forgotten.

Many big Internet companies have been turning a deaf ear on cries of privacy from users. The business models of these companies are based on tracking, keeping and analyzing user data. Not many of these companies have any clear policy about how a user can remove all his/her data if one choose to.

Google had caused a scare a couple of years ago when it changed its privacy policy to include a clause that meant that Google owns the content uploaded by users. Within a few days of this fiasco, Google backtracked and remove the offending clause.

Perhaps, Google learnt the lesson and, it appears, for repenting the mistake, the company has setup a dedicated team called the “Data Liberation Front”. The sole task of this team is to develop ways so as to enable the user to remove their data from any of Google’s services. The team’s mission statement is:

Users should be able to control the data they store in any of Google’s products. Our team’s goal is to make it easier to move data in and out.

In June 2011, the team delivered its first product named Google Takeout platform. From this page you get links to various Google services’ takeout pages. You can remove the desired data from any of the listed services.

Website of the project encourages users to ask themselves three questions before they choose to upload their data on an Internet service:

  1. Can I get my data out in an open, interoperable, portable format?
  2. How much is it going to cost to get my data out?
  3. How much of my time is it going to take to get my data out?

The data liberation team also suggests ideal answers to these questions:

  1. Yes.
  2. Nothing more than I’m already paying.
  3. As little as possible.

It is a welcome initiative by Google and I am of the view that it will certainly help in building confidence of users in Internet based services.


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