Throughout the past year, Facebook Inc. has been testing out a free Internet service in various countries across the world. This Internet service would be free to users, and would come with basic Internet capabilities (including access to Facebook’s apps, of course) to mobile phone users.
Now, the company has announced that the Internet service that has been working well in test markets will be scaled up to include other countries in North America.
How it Will Work
Facebook will soon offer any mobile operator the chance to offer free Facebook Internet through the company’s Internet.org platform. Presently, Internet.org has managed to gather more than 9 million people from across the globe, so it’s clear that the service will be used by many. Facebook’s original plan with Internet.org was to provide free internet to people living in developing countries, and the company has worked with partners in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Internet.org is also beneficial to mobile providers. By bringing millions of people online through mobile networks, providers can then benefit from additional customers. Before Internet.org, those millions of people that are now using the network weren’t using mobile phones at all, and now they are all signed up with a mobile provider. Facebook sees this as largely a win-win for both mobile providers and for the company.
Facebook claims that the company is not collecting any information from the new users. But some are wary of using free Internet through Facebook, since Facebook has been questioned for privacy policies in the past. Whether or not the company will collect data in the future remains to be seen, but for now the company is just bringing people onto the free network in the hopes of boosting Facebook app usership and working with new mobile network partners.
Of course there’s an opportunity here for Facebook to gain more users through the free network, since most people will simply hear “free Internet” and jump onboard. This is all well and fine if you want to work with Facebook and trust the company to keep your data secure, but do keep in mind that while Facebook claims that they are not collecting and keeping data, this may not be the case for mobile providers that the company partners with, so read the fine print.
Right now, Facebook and some mobile network providers are selectively targeting India. While there’s a large population in India, many of those people are not using mobile phones. This is the perfect place for Facebook to go after an audience that may want to use a mobile phone and the Internet, but haven’t signed up for a mobile phone service provider yet. But many in India are protesting Facebook’s new presence in the country claiming net neutrality issues.
When the service will be spread to North America is unclear, but look for Facebook’s Internet.org at a mobile provider near you. Would you trust Facebook not to gather your information if you were using Facebook’s free Internet?