Google data liberation project adds Docs, Sites

Google says it wants to make it easy for users to export their data in hopes of satisfying customers, as well as critics who contend it has too much power.

Google is adding two new products to its data liberation effort, hoping to draw wider attention to the concept that users should be able to take their data wherever they go.

The company formally announced the Data Liberation Front Monday, although the group has been around for at least two years. A cheeky play on the Judean People's Front from the Monty Python classic "Life of Brian" (although, technically, Brian joined the People's Front of Judea), the DLF is the group within Google that is charged with finding ways to make it easier for users of Google products and services to export their data in standard forms.

Google has been working on that kind of effort since 2007 as an extension of the company's famous "Don't Be Evil" pledge, a component of which strives to avoid falling prey to the traditional Silicon Valley business strategy: lock-in. "We started looking at our products and discovered that while the door to leave wasn't locked, in some cases it was a bit "stuck" and we thought that we could do better," Google said in an FAQ accompanying the launch of Dataliberation.org.

The undercurrent for such an announcement, of course, is the scrutiny Google is facing at home and abroad this year as users and governments become wary about the amount of data the company has amassed and organized. One of the most heated topics of criticism concerning Google's Book Search settlement with authors and publishers has been concerns about privacy, such as how Google will treat records of which users are reading which books.

Therefore, anything Google can do to show that it isn't planning to create an impenetrable fortress surrounding user data, it's going to do. But this is an industry-wide issue for Internet companies in general: Facebook, for example, faced off with anxious users concerned about the difficulty in exporting Facebook data outside that site before the launch of Facebook Connect.

What makes it tricky is that the personal data stored on these services is more valuable--for both the user and the company--because of the fact that so many people use the services, therefore giving companies incentives to build the largest network possible and retain those users once they've made the switch.

Two Google products--Google Docs and Google Sites--will soon be added to the list of products that Google says it has "liberated," with users slated to receive the ability to batch-export files created in Google Docs.

About the author

    Tom Krazit writes about the ever-expanding world of Google, as the most prominent company on the Internet defends its search juggernaut while expanding into nearly anything it thinks possible. He has previously written about Apple, the traditional PC industry, and chip companies. E-mail Tom.

     

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