Facebook pushes for data portability legislation ahead of FTC hearing

FILE PHOTO: A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen placed on a keyboard in this illustration

By Nandita Bose

WASHINGTON (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 Aphabet-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 said a portability bill called the Access Act, already doing the rounds in Congress from Democratic Senators Richard Blumenthal and Mark Warner and Republican senator Josh Hawley, is a good first step. It would require large tech platforms to let their users easily move their data to other services.

Facebook has engaged with the lawmakers on it and will continue working with them, Madhani added.

He said Facebook is 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.

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.

In April, the company said it eventually hopes to allow users to move key data such as their contacts and friend lists onto another platform in a way that protects user privacy.

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 – formed to allow web users to easily move their data between online service providers whenever they want – which also counts Google, Microsoft <MSFT.O>, Twitter <TWTR.N> and Apple <AAPL.O> among its contributors.

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