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In the past if you’ve ever tried to get your data information out of Google for gmail or Adwords, or any of the many Google products, you know that it has been a nightmare. Searching the web for instructions on how to get your mail out of gmail was an exercise in frustration reflected by hundreds of negative emails in the discussion groups.
If you ever run into this mess, just remember this site: www.dataliberation.org/.
Actually, this is a Google department called The Data Liberation Front run by an engineering team at Google. Someone at Google must have listened to the complaints because on the Data Liberation home page it says their 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.”
This is a vast improvement and a credit to the folks at Google. As they suggest under their mission statement, most consumers don’t check on how to get their data out of a software product until the day they want to leave and take it somewhere else. This can be an utter disaster if you have built something substantial in a program only to find out that the program won’t let you take your data. Companies do this so you can’t stop using their product. I’m sure the fact that you can’t take your data with you is in the legal-speak they call their “Terms” (which we all just click on rather than reading them), but it is misleading and unfair in my opinion.
I recently was looking into social networking software and came across a company that will help you build a social network using their software. However, there is a long list of complaints from users on the internet that tried to move their social network to a different platform only to find that the social network software company wouldn’t let the user take the data with them. The social network software company apparently gets to keep your data, and your social network, that you built with your blood, sweat, and tears. This a perfect example of why you should check on how you get your data out BEFORE you sign up to use a company’s product.
On their site, the folks at Google’s Data Liberation Front encourage consumers to ask three questions before starting to use a product that will store their data:
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 ideal answers to these questions are:
2. Nothing more than I'm already paying.
3. As little as possible.
The Data Liberation Front says, “There shouldn't be an additional charge to export your data. Beyond that, if it takes you many hours to get your data out, it's almost as bad as not being able to get your data out at all.”
They’re right. It’s YOUR data. Don’t work with a company that won’t let you take your own data. Beware.