Does Exclusion Targeting Or Facebook's Ad Option Discriminate?

The security of an online user's personal data is not guaranteed. Though the issue has already been noticed. The Federal Communications Commission has issued new rules preventing internet service providers from using and sharing a person's data. Likewise, the European Union warned WhatsApp in doing the same. Facebook also uses your data for ad targeting.

Facebook has defended their recent ad option tool called Ethnic Affinities amidst criticism of race discrimination. The tech company insisted that exclusion targeting is common in the advertising industry.

The Ethnic Affinities And The Fair Housing Act

According to the ProPublica, they have discovered that the said tool can be used to discriminate against users of a certain race with housing-related ads. If that is true, it may be in violation of the 1968 Fair Housing Act. The said Fair Housing Act prohibits housing ads that discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin.

The social networking site doesn't particularly ask one's race. However, Facebook can refer to the data collected from a person's account. CNN Money said that Facebook will use it to display ads to appeal to your interests.

ProPublica tested this by posting an ad for a housing event. The ad option was used to allow it not to be shown to anyone with an "Ethnic Affinity" of African-American, Asian-American or Hispanic. Apparently, the ad for the housing event was immediately approved in 15 minutes.

CNN Money has asked John Relman about exclusionary ads. Relman has called these ads horrifying. He added that numerous federal and local level non-discrimination laws may be violated with ads that exclude minorities. He explained that such developed tool in a market that is covered by the law would make Facebook liable for discrimination.

Though Facebook is actually using both human and algorithms in approving or blocking all ads. It had blocked a breast cancer awareness ad after initially approving it. But then the said ad was re-approve after an obvious mistake. Facebook could also miss ads that are discriminatory.

Relman warned that the Ethnic Affinities tool can be used in insidious ways to exclude people. This can turn out to be a very dangerous practice.

Facebook's Defense

Facebook insists that the said ad targeting option is meant for advertisers to target the ones who are interested in their product. The tech company's Head of Multicultural Christian Martinez has said in an official post that ad targeting is beneficial to users.

He explained that people will be able to access contents that are actually relevant to them. That includes those who are affiliated with ethnic communities.

Martinez also pointed out that exclusion targeting is already common in the advertising industry. They ensured users that ads that are inappropriate or in violation of their content policy are removed.

CNN Money further reports that a Facebook spokeswoman confirmed that they prohibit using the targeting options to discriminate. Furthermore, their policies require compliance with the law.

Martinez mentioned that the tool should instead be a way to acknowledge and embrace diversity.

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