Facebook pushes for data portability legislation ahead of FTC hearing

(Reuters) – Facebook Inc (FB.O) on Friday pushed for legislation that makes it easier for users to transfer photos and videos to a rival tech platform, in comments it sent to the Federal Trade Commission ahead of a hearing on the topic on Sept. 22.

Data portability – considered a potential remedy for large technology companies whose control of social media material makes it harder for smaller rivals to get started – has become a key part of the antitrust debate in the United States and Europe.

In April, Facebook allowed users in the United States and Canada to transfer photos and videos to Alphabet-owned Google Photos (GOOGL.O) for the first time – a move that is likely to help the company respond to U.S. regulators and lawmakers, who are investigating its competitive practices and allegations it has stifled competition.

“The FTC often issues reports following these workshops … I think their recommendations should include dedicated portability legislation,” Bijan Madhani, privacy and public policy manager at Facebook told Reuters.

Facebook supports a portability bill already doing the rounds in Congress called the Access Act from Democratic Senators Richard Blumenthal and Mark Warner, and Republican senator Josh Hawley. It would require large tech platforms to let their users easily move their data to other services.

The bill is a good first step, Madhani said. Facebook has engaged with the lawmakers on it and will continue working with them, he added.

Facebook is also seeking regulatory guidance, in the form of an independent body or regulator, in answering policy questions and helping them address liability issues tied to portability, Madhani said.

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, he added.

Data portability is a requirement under Europe’s privacy law called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California’s privacy law called the California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA).

Facebook developed its data portability tool as a member of the Data Transfer Project – which was formed to allow web users to easily move their data between online service providers whenever they want – and counts Facebook, Google, Microsoft (MSFT.O), Twitter (TWTR.N) and Apple (AAPL.O) among its contributors.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Chris Sanders)


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