Announcing the Portability Policy

We’re proud to announce the release of the Portability Policy, the latest creation from the DataPortability Project. We believe that this will help further the vision of digital freedom that was the founding ideal of our group two years ago.

The software industry is still figuring out the right balance between open and closed, but we believe that communication is the first step. The DataPortability Project encourages standard, plain language policies describing how data and digital “stuff” can be moved from one product to another.

Inspired by the Creative Commons, the Portability Policy work began as a way to improve the confusing Terms of Service and EULA model – one which we believe has become outdated and ineffective. To quote the new site:

In the same way that your Privacy Policy tells visitors what you can do with information they provide, your product’s Portability Policy tells visitors what they can do with it.

The heart of the Portability Policy is a set of plain language questions that we hope will become a common vocabulary between software users and providers. Through these questions, a provider can disclose what they do or do not, to enable data portability. Eventually, we intend to release machine-readable version of these policies.

Data portability applies to a much broader set of software products than just social networks. The promise of data portability is that everyone benefits when work can be repurposed – by yourself with other tools or by other people. Any tool that lets people enter or organize their digital “stuff” should control how that stuff can be reused. Text documents, music play lists, pictures, and research data are just as valuable to share as “friend lists” and address books.

We do not promote any particular technology or approach; there are no right or wrong answers. While a social network might want to illustrate the myriad ways that they connect people and allow for data portability, a service focused on deeply personal medical or financial issues might want to highlight the fact that they allow no portability at all. Our intent is simply to increase communication and ensure that both parties — visitors and the service itself — each know what they should expect from the other.

We wish thank the hard work of the Portability Policy workgroup, which is chaired by Steve Greenberg. I also wish to thank TechCrunch for their support over the years – you can read my guest post today which gives further detail on the policy.

Elias Bizannes is the chairperson and executive director of the DataPortability Project.

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