Facebook lets users port photos and videos to Google

Data portability tool part of wider project spurred on by new regulations

Facebook is letting users move uploaded photos and videos to Google Photos as part of a project enabling data portability. 

The new tool lets Facebook users bulk export all of their photos and videos to Google's photo hosting service. So far, the tool is only available in Ireland, but is set to be rolled out more widely in the first half of next year. 

"At Facebook, we believe that if you share data with one service, you should be able to move it to another," said Steve Satterfield, Director of Privacy and Public Policy at Facebook, in a blog post. "That's the principle of data portability, which gives people control and choice while also encouraging innovation."

Data portability is required under laws such as GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act; the data portability rules in the latter come into play next year, just as this tool arrives more widely. 

Transferring the data to Google Photos does not appear to delete it from Facebook, but you can move the images over to the rival digital provider and then delete your account. It's worth noting that Facebook has long allowed users to download everything from their account, photos and videos included, and then they can, of course, be uploaded again to your digital host of choice, Google Photos or otherwise. 

Facebook said the photo transfer tool is just the first step, and its release is designed to be assessed by policymakers, academics and regulators, in order to help decide what data should be portable and how to keep it private and secure.

"We've learned from our conversations with policymakers, regulators, academics, advocates and others that real-world use cases and tools will help drive policy discussions forward," said Satterfield. 

He added: "We are currently testing this tool, so we will continue refining it based on feedback from people using it as well as from our conversations with stakeholders."

The photo tool is based on code developed at the Data Transfer Project, an effort launched in 2018 that includes leading tech companies including Microsoft, Twitter, Google and Apple. The aim is to develop an open-source data portability platform to make it easier for individuals using their products to shift to a new provider if desired. 

The tool will eventually be available via the settings section of "Your Facebook Information." "We've kept privacy and security as top priorities, so all data transferred will be encrypted and people will be asked to enter their password before a transfer is initiated," said Satterfield. 

Satterfield saying Facebook hoped to "advance conversations" on the privacy questions identified in the white paper, which included the need to make users aware of privacy terms at the destination service, the types of data being transferred, and to ensure it's encrypted to avoid it being diverted by hackers. For example, should contact list data be portable, given it's private information of other people? Satterfield called on more companies to join the Data Transfer Project to further such efforts, which will be welcome to everyone as, after a string of security and privacy concerns, Facebook might not be the most trusted service on such issues. 

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