Like most things on the internet, Facebook has always been free to users, supported by targeted advertising. But as concerns have grown over data collection, many users have expressed interest in a paid, ad-free version of Facebook — and Mark Zuckerberg may not be opposed 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 line of questioning came from Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who recalled meeting Zuckerberg in 2010 as part of the Senate Republican High Tech Task Force. “You said back then that Facebook would always be free,” Hatch said to Zuckerberg. “Is that still your objective?”
“There will always be a version of Facebook that is free.”
“Senator, yes,” Zuckerberg replied. “There will always be a version of Facebook that is free. It is our mission to try to help connect everyone around the world and bring the world closer together,” Zuckerberg continued. “In order to do that, we believe we need to deliver 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 to opt out of data collection and targeted advertising, as many have suggested. There would be serious logistical hurdles in implementing such a system, but it’s a possible response to recent privacy concerns and one Zuckerberg took care not to rule out.
When Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg faced recent questions about an ad-free option, she offered a more ambiguous answer.
“Could you come up with a tool that said, ‘I do not want Facebook to use my personal profile data to target me for advertising,” Today’s Savannah Guthrie asked Sandberg on Saturday. “Could you have an opt-out button?”
“We have different forms of opt-out. We don’t have an opt-out at the highest level,” Sandberg said. “That would be a paid product.”