Facebook Voices Support For Data Portability Law

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Facebook says it would support dedicated data portability legislation in the US as an antitrust measure, ahead of key regulatory meeting next month

Facebook has said it supports data portability legislation that would make it easier for its users to transfer photos, videos and other materials to rival platforms, ahead of a key US regulatory hearing next month.

In comments sent to the US’ Federal Trade Commission, the company also said it is considering expanding the scope of its data portability offerings, which it first launched earlier this year.

In April Facebook launched a tool that allows users to send copies of their photos directly to Google Photos, the first time it has offered such a feature.

In its comments to the FTC, the company offered “possible examples” of other types of media that could be made portable, such as videos, calendar events or users’ “most meaningful posts”.

Why Collect Data?Data sharing

Expanding portability could help content creators create a presence on other platforms or help event organisers track Facebook events, the company said.

However, Facebook offered no firm commitments and said increased data portability also carries risks to privacy and security.

The company said only that it intended to ensure the current photo-sharing tool “remains stable”.

“We remain committed to ensuring the current product remains stable and performant for people and we are also exploring how we might extend this tool, mindful of the need to preserve the privacy of our users and the integrity of our services,” Facebook said in its comments to the FTC.

With regard to expanding the range of its data-sharing partnerships, Facebook said that in the short term it would “pursue these destination partnerships through bilateral agreements” if users and potential partners appeared interested.

The FTC is due to hold a public workshop on 22 September examining the possible use of data portability as a remedy for competition issues raised by the dominance of tech giants such as Facebook.

Facebook’s remarks are a response to the agency’s call for comment submissions.

The company’s privacy and public policy manager, Bijan Madhani, told Reuters that Facebook wants the FTC to support “dedicated portability legislation” in any official recommendations that may come out of the workshop.

Privacy

The company said it supports a portability bill called the Access Act, currently being considered in Congress, as a good first step.  The bill would oblige major tech platforms to allow users to easily move their data to other services.

The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) already includes data portability requirements.

But Facebook also made it clear it wants strict limits on any data portability law.

In its comments to the FTC the company said regulations shouldn’t mandate the inclusion of “observed and inferred data types”, limiting rivals’ ability to gain insights from Facebook users’ data.

In a public discussion with EU commissioner for the internal market Thierry Breton in May, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said data portability can threaten users’ privacy, saying there are “direct trade-offs about openness and privacy”.

Ironically, US federal prosecutors began investigating Facebook last year for allegedly allowing rivals such as Amazon, Apple, Spotify, Microsoft and Netflix to harvest and analyse users’ data, including private messages.

Facebook developed its photo portability took as a member of the Data Transfer Project, which also counts Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Apple amongst its members.

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