Like most things on the Internet, Facebook has always been free for users, backed by targeted advertising. But as concerns over data collection grew, many users have expressed interest in a paid, ad-free version of Facebook, and Mark Zuckerberg may not object to the idea.
In a testimony before the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees today, Zuckerberg seemed to leave open the possibility of a paid version of Facebook. The interrogation line came from Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who recalled meeting Zuckerberg in 2010 as part of the Senate High Technology Republican Task Force. "Back then you said that Facebook would always be free," Hatch told Zuckerberg. "Is that still your goal?"
"There will always be a free version of Facebook."
"Senator, yes," Zuckerberg replied. "There will always be a free version of Facebook, it is our mission to try to help connect everyone around the world and bring the world closer," Zuckerberg continued. "To do that, we believe we should offer a service that everyone can afford."
By specifying a free version of Facebook, Zuckerberg seemed to leave room for the idea of a paid way of opting for data collection and targeted advertising, as many have suggested. There would be serious logistical obstacles in the implementation of such a system, but it is a possible answer to the recent privacy problems and a Zuckerberg was careful not to discard it.
When Facebook's operations director, Sheryl Sandberg, faced recent questions about an ad-free option, she offered a more ambiguous response.
"Could you propose a tool that would say:" I do not want Facebook to use my personal profile data to direct me to advertising, "Savannah Guthrie asked Sandberg today on Saturday." Could I have a button? " of voluntary exclusion? "
"We have different forms of voluntary exclusion, we do not have an exclusion option at the highest level," Sandberg said. "That would be a paid product."