If that horde of photos you’ve uploaded over the years is the only reason you haven’t deleted Facebook, good news. Today, Facebook announced it’s launching a photo transfer tool that will let users port photos directly to Google Photos.
In a blog, Facebook described the move as one geared toward enhancing data portability. The transferred photos will be encrypted, and users will be prompted to enter their password before any transfer can start. The tool is based on code developed through the company’s participation in the Data Transfer Project, a collaborative, open-source platform supported by Apple, Facebook, Google, Windows, and Twitter. The idea is an internet where eventually, people aren’t locked into a single platform and can move their data freely from one service to the next.
That’s a nice lofty goal, but for now, Facebook’s tool is limited to Google’s photo storage service. The blog did suggest this is just the start, however, it didn’t provide any more details regarding what services were next or a timeline. Facebook did clarify that right now the tool is launching first in Ireland—where its international headquarters are located—and will roll out worldwide in the first half of 2020. To access the tool, people can go to their settings within the Your Facebook Information menu.
This is a good thing, but it’s also important to look at Facebook’s motivation. While it points to a data portability white paper published in September, there are also other factors at play. First off, Facebook is currently the subject of a sweeping antitrust investigation in the United States. Pivoting to data portability and adding transfer tools is a likely bid to lessen monopoly accusations. After all, if users can take their data elsewhere, then they’re technically not locked into Facebook’s platform. It’s also likely in response to a bipartisan bill called the ACCESS Act, which would require tech companies with over 100 million monthly users to create tools for better data portability. Additionally, Facebook is basically under perpetual regulatory investigation in the EU for privacy and antitrust violations.
It’s worth keeping in mind that even if you do port all your photos, download all your Facebook information, and then nuke your account, Facebook still has profited off your data in some sense. Your information might get deleted off their servers (a process that may take up to 90 days), but the insights they’ve mined from your selfies, posts, ads you’ve clicked, etc., still belong to Zuck and his pals. That’s if you delete your account. If you only port your photos and leave your account idle, Facebook still has all your information.