Trust Us, We’re Google!
Armed with a symbolic pair of red bolt cutters, Brian Fitzpatrick has the job of helping people quit Google.
Fitzpatrick founded and leads a six-person team of Google engineers called the Data Liberation Front, which since 2007 has been developing ways to let users “unlock,” or export, data such as photos, e-mails, and contact lists that they store on Google’s servers. The team’s website offers directions for retrieving data from 33 Google services, including Google Docs and Google Plus, and it created Google Takeout, a speedy link for downloading files from several popular services.
Extracting your data this way can be a first step toward closing a Google account for good. “When you put data into any cloud service, you’re putting trust in [it],” says Fitzgerald. “You need a way to revoke that trust.”
Despite its subversive name, however, the Data Liberation Front isn’t really encouraging anyone to leave Google. Instead, the project is part of a wider strategy the company is using to give users a greater sense of control. That could go a long way towards quelling consumer privacy worries and avoiding government regulation.