Open Arms: a data portability approach

Open Arms hug

Caveat Lector: this is a rough draft of my thinking on what a Portability EULA/ToS should say/do/include. Please comment. In the EULA/ToS task force, we are exploring ways of explaining portability with simple analogies. - Phil

We’ve discussed Graceful Exit, the ability for people to control their departure from a site or service.

Open Arms starts at the beginning of your relationship with a service. Let’s summarize it, break it apart, and explain why this is a powerful way to do business.

Open Arms is a combination of policy and technology.

The policy says:

When you come to our site,
bring all of yourself.
We’ll help you put it to use
in our context.
We’ll make it easy to come.
We’ll keep it safe.
We’ll respect ownership as you see it.

What you add while you are here
will join your collection
and be portable in turn.

The elements.

All of yourself.

Bring your identity, your contacts, your history with your contacts, your photos and videos, your playlists, everything digital.

We’ll ignore what we cannot use.

Put it to use in our context.

Every site has a context.

  • Things it does
  • Purposes people share
  • Community standards of behavior.

For example:

  • Monster brings work and workers together.
  • Flickr helps people manage what comes out of their cameras.
  • YouTube is a community of video.
  • QuickBooks helps you manage your business.
  • Chemistry helps you find true love.
  • Amazon and eBay bring buyers and sellers together.

We need your data. These sites could help you do more and do it smarter with more and fresher and truer information from you. Monster could create team job search features if it knew your social graph. Chemistry could be more accurate if it had your music and video playlists.

Our sites are verbs. We do things. The more data you bring, the richer the data, the fresher and more standardized the data, the more we can do, the more creative we can be.

Most people don’t try new sites because it’s hard to recreate data. Especially for every site you visit.


So for Open Arms to work,  bringing your onlife to each site you join must be fast, simple, easy, and obvious. And correct.


We will protect everything you share. We will protect it from damage, theft, natural disaster, financial ruin, legal physical threats, from legal threats, from Martian invasion. As best we can. And we’ll explain the threats we perceive and how we’re protecting you and your onlife from them.

Ownership as you see it.

“Ownership” is a tricky word: it means one thing to lawyers, something else to most people. Our online and mobile social experiences are a little ahead of the law. So all we can do is try to the right thing for you and for all of our guests.

We’ll respect that your stuff is only “mostly” yours and that you may not have permission to share them with strangers. You may not have permission from the subject of a photo, or their parents. You may have clipped a blog post to share under fair use, but not for general distribution. You may have a confidential email that could endanger lives if leaked.

We will assume everything you bring is private to you and that you will tell us what can be shared, with whom, and under what conditions.

We’ll make it easy for you to re-use your choices, so you don’t have to explain yourself everywhere you go.

Portable in turn

Reciprocity works. So we’re going to share with other sites the part of your onlife you spend with us, as you see fit. So you never feel we’re holding your data hostage.

What’s next?

So, we’ve “Open Arms” at the start of our relationship and “Graceful Exit” at the end. Next up “Ever Fresh” in between.

Open Arms” written by Steve Perry and Jonathan Cain, Journey (1982)

Lying beside you, here in the dark
Feeling your heart beat with mind
Softly you whisper, you’re so sincere
How could our live be so blind
We sailed on together
We drifted apart
And here you are by my side

So now I come to you, with open arms
Nothing to hide, believe what I say
So here I am with open arms
Hoping you’ll see what your love means to me
Open arms

Living without you, living alone
This empty house seems so cold
Wanting to hold you, wanting you near
How much I wanted you home

But now that you’ve come back
Turned night into day
I need you to stay.


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