Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of the Senate this week. This hearing was held due to data privacy issues related to user data on Facebook. The popular social network is currently amidst a very big scandal due to reports that suggest that data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica inappropriately gained access to the personal data of approximately 87 million Facebook users via a quiz app. This data was then used during President Trump’s election campaign.
During the hearing, Republican Senator Orin Hatch questioned Zuckerberg if Facebook will always be free. “There will always be a version of Facebook that is free,” Zuckerberg told senators. “It is our mission to try to help connect everyone around the world and bring the world closer together. In order to do that, we believe we need to offer a service that everyone can afford.”
However, this led to a speculation that Facebook has considered the possibility of a paid version.
Adding on to the testimony, Zuckerberg said that targeted ads are Facebook’s business model. Without these ads, Facebook would need to find another method to make money. “In order to not run ads at all, we would need some sort of business model,” he told senators, referring to Sandberg’s earlier comments.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg suggested during an interview with “Today”, that an arrangement where Facebook users can opt out of sharing their information with advertisers would require a paid model, however, she did not discuss any such imminent changes.
“To be clear, we don’t offer an option today for people to pay to not show ads,” Zuckerberg said. “We think offering people an ad-supported service is the most aligned with our mission of trying to connect everyone in the world because we want to offer a free service that everyone can afford. That’s the only way we can reach billions of people.”
Zuckerberg also suggested that Facebook doesn’t really have an option for users to avoid ads. Although users can ‘turn off’ targeted ads in their settings, he further added that despite this option, a majority of users choose to leave the ads on.