The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has filed charges against Facebook for allowing discrimination against certain demographics in housing ads.
HUD says that Facebook violated the Fair Housing Act by offering options to advertisers that let them exclude groups listed as protected classes in the Fair Housing Act.
Just a week ago, Facebook adjusted its ad targeting options for housing and jobs ads to ensure it is free from such discrimination. However, the HUD found that the ad platform is still not delivering housing ads equitably.
Facebook’s ad platform apparently decides who sees those ads based on race, religion, family status, and disability, which amounts to discrimination.
In the document submitted by HUD, Facebook is accused of allowing advertisers to exclude people simply on the basis of on which neighborhoods they live in and also giving them the option to show those ads only to men or women.
In addition to this, the HUD claims that Facebook’s ad algorithms unlawfully classify users by their characteristics, and determine whether they have a shared interest or disinterest in housing-related ads.
Facebook links all the data it collects about users’ traits and behavior with the data it obtains about user behavior from “other websites and in the non-digital world.”
“Facebook then allegedly uses machine learning and other prediction techniques to classify and group users to project each user’s likely response to a given ad, and in doing so, may recreate groupings defined by their protected class,” states the HUD press release.
In response to the charges, Facebook says it is surprised by the charges as they had been working with HUD to address the same issues with their ad platform.
The social media giant also expressed its inability to share all the information requested by HUD as it contains user data.
“While we were eager to find a solution, HUD insisted on access to sensitive information — like user data — without adequate safeguards,” Facebook said in a statement.
Now, the company plans to work on this case with civil rights experts to sort out the issues.