Facebook calls for data portability legislation

Facebook is pushing for legislation to make it easier for users to transfer photos and videos to a competing tech platform ahead of a hearing on the topic scheduled for Sept. 22, 2020.

In comments sent to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Facebook says it intends to expand the extent of its data portability offerings “in the coming months.” The tech giant is also exploring new opportunities for users to “derive value from porting the most widely used content on


Suggestions from Facebook include content creators building their brands on new platforms by transferring the content they’ve shared on Facebook and allowing event organizers to share and track their Facebook events using cloud-based calendar services.

Allowing users to transfer copies of meaningful posts to a separate publishing platform is another example discussed in Facebook’s comments to the FTC.

Facebook already allows users in the U.S. and Canada to transfer photos and videos to Google Photos. When it comes to expanding this support to other services, Facebook explained, “Supporting these additional use cases will mean finding more destinations to which people can transfer their data. In the short term, we’ll pursue these destination partnerships through bilateral agreements informed by user interest and expressions of interest from potential partners.”

Facebook has already extended its support to the Access Act, a portability bill from Democratic Senators Richard Blumenthal and Mark Warner and Republican senator Josh Hawley. The bill would require large tech platforms to allow users to move their data to other services.

Bijan Madhani, privacy and public policy manager at Facebook, told Reuters the bill is a good first step. Facebook is also seeking regulatory guidance from an independent body or regulator to answer policy questions and address liability issues associated with portability, Madhani added.

“The social media platform is also pressing for more clarity on what kinds of data should be portable and who is responsible for protecting such information as it moves to different services,” Madhani continued.

The FTC will host a public workshop on Sept. 22, 2020 to “examine the potential benefits and challenges to consumers and competition raised by data portability.”

“The FTC often issues reports following these workshops ... I think their recommendations should include dedicated portability legislation,” said Madhani.

Data portability is a requirement under Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation and the California Consumer Protection Act.

Facebook developed its data portability tool as a member of the Data Transfer Project, a collaborative effort between Facebook, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Twitter. The project included developing a means for users to transfer data between online services.