Facebook could address some US antitrust concerns with new media transfer tool

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Facebook will allow users in the US and Canada to transfer photographs and video content to a rival tech platform for the first time. This is a step that could assuage antitrust concerns by giving users an option to easily leave the company’s services, the social media network has said. 

The tool lets Facebook users transfer data stored on its servers directly to another photo storage service, in this case Google Photos – a feature known as data portability.

American and Canadian users will be able to access the tool through their Facebook accounts starting Thursday. The function has already been launched in several countries including in Europe and Latin America.

It allows the social media company to give users more control over their data and respond to US regulators and lawmakers who are investigating its competitive practices and allegations it has stifled competition.

The US launch also comes ahead of a hearing set up by the Federal Trade Commission on the 22nd of September to examine the potential benefits and challenges of data portability. Control of data that hurts competition has become a critical topic in the antitrust debate in the United States and Europe.

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Facebook’s Director of Privacy and Public Policy Steve Satterfield said over the past couple of years, the company heard calls from policymakers and regulators asking it to facilitate choice, make it easier for people to choose new providers and move their data to new services.

“So it really is an important part of the response to the kinds of concerns that drive antitrust regulation or competition regulation,” Satterfield told news agency Reuters in an interview.

He said the company would be open to participating in the FTC hearing if the agency approaches them.

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).

Also, Democratic Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Mark Warner of Virginia along with Republican senator Josh Hawley of Missouri introduced a bill, known as the ACCESS Act, in October, which requires large tech platforms to let their users easily move their data to other services.

Satterfield said Facebook hopes to eventually allow users to move key data such as their contacts, friend lists etc onto another platform in a way that protects user privacy.

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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, Twitter and Apple among its contributors.

Members of the project are also looking at letting users transfer data such as emails, playlists and events in the future, the company said.

On a call with academics and policy experts from the fields of competition and privacy, Facebook Inc said it is moving deliberately on data transfer partnerships with third-parties to avoid a repeat of the Cambridge Analytica incident.

The now defunct UK political consulting firm harvested the personal data of millions of Facebook users without their consent and used it for political advertising.

The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed the ‘Facebook could address some US antitrust concerns with new media transfer tool‘ article. Automatic translation from English to a growing list of languages via Google AI Cloud Translation. Initial reporting via our official content partners at Thomson Reuters. Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington. Editing by Chris Sanders and Cynthia Osterman.

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