In the weeks since the last time we brought up Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, the latter has closed up shop and has been ordered by a U.K. watchdog agency to turn over data on a U.S. professor by the name of David Carroll, under the threat of unlimited fines. There’s a whole new meaning of unlimited that we wouldn’t want U.S. carriers to adopt. It seems that last year, Professor Carroll received partial information concerning his psychological profile that was put together by the now defunct consulting firm. This data ranked his interests on topics like gun rights, immigration, healthcare, education and the environment. It also figured out his political leanings and how he would vote in the 2016 election.
As for Facebook, the company has been researching whether an ad-free version would attract more users to the social media network. This is something that Facebook has considered before, but in light of recent events, which include co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony, the timing now seems propitious. The thinking from those in the know, is that creating an ad-free subscription option would keep many Facebook members from closing their accounts and deleting the app.
The problem with an ad-free option would be replacing the $41 billion in revenue that Facebook reported last year. This was mostly generated by selling ads based on user data. Both Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg said last month that Facebook reaches the most people across all income levels through its ad-supported model. And both executives added that they will continue to sell political ads as a way to support “free expression.”
While certainly nothing has been decided, Sandberg confirmed that a subscription version of Facebook has been discussed. “We certainly thought about lots of other forms of monetization including subscriptions,” the executive said, “and we’ll always continue to consider everything.”
Even if Facebook adds a paid subscription version, Zuckerberg says that there will always be a version of Facebook that is free.