Google announces changes to Takeout following regulatory pressure

Hopping onto a service and building a profile that caters to your unique preferences is relatively simple, but as we discovered while migrating from Spotify to YouTube Music, it isn’t easy to jump ship once you’re locked in, because companies like Google don’t allow smooth data sharing with third party services. Italian startup Hoda highlighted concerns with these practices last year, prompting an investigation from the competition authority in the country. Now, the authority has approved Google’s three-pronged action plan for Google Takeout to get the complaint dismissed.



Google has the reputation of a data hog, but Takeout is your one-stop hub to export everything the company has on you. However, Hoda’s complaint to the Italian competition authority, the AGCM, said Google makes it difficult for users to share personal data generated on Google-owned platforms directly with other digital services. It may not seem like much, but the potential consequences are amplified by Alphabet’s near-monopoly on multiple digital service industries.

The AGCM acknowledged these concerns and found Google policies violating Article 20 of the GDPR. If found guilty, the company could be forced to pay up to 10% of its annual global sales as a fine, a number that can run into billions of dollars.

To avoid paying up, Google proposed a three-pronged plan — two changes for Google Takeout, and a new platform dedicated to sharing data directly with third-party operators. Reuters reports the AGCM has approved this plan (via 9to5Google), which will offer two new user facing features on Google Takeout to make it easier to export data to third-party operators. The third will be a new tool like the Data Transfer Project, allowing direct data portability from Google Search and YouTube to third-party service operators.

Details are scant at present, but instead of manually downloading gigabytes of data and re-uploading them, or involving an intermediary service, the new tool should allow third parties to directly access personal user data generated on Google services after user approval. The service is currently in development with a release promised in the first quarter of next year. Google also promises to offer a test version of this new tool to third parties at least six months before the launch, meaning the test should commence soon.

For users like you and me, a tool like the one Google is developing could make it much easier to switch from a Google service to another one, like if you’re switching from Gmail to a rival email provider. It would reduce your involvement (and effort) in the migration process because Google would share your data with the concerned business directly.

A Google representative welcomed the AGCM’s approval of the remedial measures and dismissal of the competition concerns, saying the enhanced data portability will make for a better user experience. We just hope the changes are genuinely user-focused instead of mere obligations to satisfy regulators and dodge hefty fines.

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