Facebook Seeks Rules for Data Transfers Across Tech Platforms

April 19, 2021, 12:00 PM

Facebook Inc. is reiterating its call for rules on data portability as it broadens the reach of a tool letting its users transfer their information to other platforms.

Facebook users can now move their posts and notes to Google Docs, Blogger, and WordPress, the company announced Monday. Photos and videos on Facebook can already be transferred to cloud storage and data backup providers, including Google Photos, Dropbox, Backblaze, and Koofr.

Facebook is also calling for clarity on data portability from the Federal Trade Commission and other policymakers because rules in Europe and California give consumers a right to portability without giving specifics on how transfers should work or how the rights will be enforced.

Digital rights activists see data portability as a way to help loosen the hold large tech companies have on user data amid antitrust scrutiny of the industry. Such transfers raise questions around how companies protect data in transit between platforms.

“We plan to continue expanding our data types and partners in the future,” Steve Satterfield, Facebook’s privacy and public policy director, said. “However, the ecosystem we are building to support data portability will not come to fruition without regulation that clarifies which data should be made portable and who is responsible for protecting data once it has been transferred.”

The FTC is assessing its role in overseeing data portability, following a workshop on the issue in September.

More clarity is needed so that users can trust their data will be handled responsibly, Facebook told the commission in comments ahead of the workshop. Facebook has also urged Congress to pass legislation on data portability.

Portability is related to a concept known as interoperability, which lawmakers are eyeing as a way to curb the power of Big Tech. The idea is that Facebook users could communicate seamlessly with users of rival platforms like Twitter Inc., similar to the way phone networks function.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrea Vittorio in Washington at avittorio@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bloomberglaw.com; Renee Schoof at rschoof@bloombergindustry.com

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