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Facebook Just Removed Its 'Always Free' Slogan

Will Facebook start charging users for its services?
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Hardly anyone noticed when Facebook changed a tiny but crucial detail on its signup page after its update on August 6. Before the update, the words “It’s free and always will be” was on the signup page. These words have now been replaced with “It’s quick and easy,” which some people view as a sign of Facebook’s changing policy about keeping the site free.

Why the change?

The change may be a sign of a possible imminent departure from Facebook's promise of keeping the social media site free to use, but according to a report by Business Insider, it could also be the result of the European Parliament directive in March that states that users’ data is a form of payment.

How does Facebook use our personal data?

Every time you interact with anything on Facebook, you produce digital footprint. A digital footprint is a trail of data you create while using the Internet. On Facebook, your data could be about things you like, things you support, your beliefs, products you purchase, your daily routines, your habits, etc. Facebook uses your data so it can market targeted advertising to third parties. The results of this targeted marketing are very effective.

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However, it could also be misused as a tool for social engineering, such as conditioning the minds of people to vote for certain politicians. Scandals about how Facebook had misused data resulted in high-profile senate hearings in the U.S., with Mark Zuckerberg in the hot seat. In July, the company was fined $5 billion by the Federal Trade Commission for various privacy violations involving Cambridge Analytica, which allegedly led a campaign to sway the US elections.

"Facebook has never been free.”

According to digital law expert Jose Antonio Castillo, Facebook might seem to be free, but it operates using the currency of our personal data. “It’s never been free because data is worth a lot of money,” said Castillo.

Facebook might have made the change in its slogan to align it with the European Parliament’s definition of what is free. But the possibility of Facebook charging users for premium services could also be on the horizon. Clause 11 of Facebook’s Platform Policy clearly states: “We don’t guarantee that the Platform will always be free.”

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Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor, Esquire Philippines
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