Social networks have typically followed the roach motel model of customer data: Make it easy to push data in, but hard/impossible to pull it back out. Platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter all make money by knowing what information you’ve (wittingly or unwittingly) handed over — and then selling access to that data to advertisers or others who want to reach you. As a result — though there are some meaningful distinctions to be made between the various giants — platforms have traditionally not been super interested in letting you get your information back out.
In the past few years, some of these companies have shifted their stances and even called for regulatory standards for data portability — which, if ever enacted, could serve as a moat to protect the giants from any new competitors. (Some barebones requirements are part of GDPR and CCPA.)
Facebook is rolling out a new feature today, allowing users across the globe to have the option to archive their posts and notes created on the social media site and transfer a copy of that data onto Google Docs, WordPress, or Blogger. It’s expanding on a similar tool the company released last year that allows you to transfer photos from its platform onto Google Photos. In both cases, the tool allows users leaving Facebook to preserve a version of the content associated with their account.
Users can access the tool by opening Facebook settings and clicking on “Your Facebook Information,” then selecting “Transfer a Copy of Your Information.” There, you can select which destination to transfer the data to (Google Docs, WordPress, or Blogger), log in to the account you select, and confirm the transfer.
The new feature is part of the Data Transfer Project, a cross-company data-sharing initiative that launched in 2018 with the goal of allowing you to move data across various online services and platforms seamlessly. Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter are also involved in the project, offering similar data-export tools.
First off, props for making me think about Blogger for the first time in years. Second, good for Facebook, but the real-world usefulness will probably be more archival than real-time. The ability to export your Facebook posts to WordPress isn’t a threat to Facebook, and it isn’t a threat to cross-platform posting tools like Buffer. Still, better to have it than not to.
Facebook’s eager to make sure that whatever standards it’s forced to meet, any potential challengers must meet too:
We plan to continue expanding our data types and partners in the future. However, the ecosystem we are building to support data portability will not come to fruition without regulation that clarifies which data should be made portable and who is responsible for protecting data once it has been transferred. We hope that today’s updates can help advance conversations with policymakers, developers and experts about these issues.