Whether you’re considering dumping Facebook or just want to back up years of digital content, you’re in luck: The social network will, for the first time ever, allow people to transfer photos and videos to a rival platform.
The move, according to Reuters, aims to placate antitrust critics “by giving users an option to easily leave the company’s services.” The service was already available in other countries, but Facebook’s data portability tool is now finally available in the US and Canada, and allows data stored on Facebook’s servers to be transferred to another service—in this case, Google Photos. Simply visit Settings > Your Facebook Information (where you can also download your entire timeline and other content) to access the password-protected feature. All transferred data is encrypted.
Social media has long been seen as the villain for its lack of security, spread of misinformation, and competitive practices. But this—along with recent attempts to give users more control over their personal data—marks the turning over of a new leaf. “At Facebook, we believe that if you share data with one service, you should be able to move it to another,” Steve Satterfield, director of privacy and public policy, wrote in a December announcement. “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.”
As Reuters points out, data portability is required under Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA); it is also the topic of an upcoming Federal Trade Commission hearing. The bipartisan ACCESS Act bill, introduced last year in the Senate, requires large tech firms to let users easily move data between services.
Facebook’s portability tool, Satterfield told Reuters, could eventually expand to include other key information, like users’ contact and friend lists. The system is based on code developed through the open-source Data Transfer Project, which launched in 2018 and counts Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter among its current contributors.