Social networking company Facebook was charged by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) this Thursday. The charges are filed on the basis of violation done by the tech giant by using its advertisement tools to target specific ads at specific locations while depriving other locations from the required advertisements. It was found that the discrimination was done on the basis of sex, religion and country of a user.
An investigation was carried out in August, 2018 after a series of complaints that real estate agents, companies, and home sellers can put ads by filtering out from a wide range of categories. HUD Secretary Ben Carson said that it was found that Facebook was discriminating against people based upon who they are and where they live and they are still continuing to do the same thing. He also said, “Using a computer to limit a person’s housing choices can be just as discriminatory as slamming a door in someone’s face.”
Facebook’s address and the next course of action
Facebook’s went on to address the issue citing numerous changes they did last year to prevent this practice. The company released a statement saying that they had abolished more than a thousand options that could be used for inappropriate causes by several miscreants. Facebook also stopped the practice of publishing ads on the basis of age, gender, or zip code to a complete extent as part of a settlement with various civil rights groups. The company said, our recent agreements with the National Fair Housing Alliance, ACLU and many others for providing fair display of ads related to housing, credit and employment showcases our intention. The company also went on to say that they were eager to find a solution sitting with HUD, but they were adamant on having access to our sensitive information which includes user data and privacy information. A spokesperson from Facebook said, “We’re disappointed by today’s developments, but we’ll continue working with civil rights experts on these issues.”
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It seems like the company is in a mood to work out the issues of non reaching to a unanimity. The recent agreement with ACLU, Golden LLP and others can be seen as an effort to prevent itself from legal troubles which are following the company from the past few years. HUD General Counsel Paul Compton said, “ Even as we confront new technologies, the fair housing laws enacted over half a century ago remain clear as discrimination in housing related advertising is against the law”. He also said that they understand the fact that advertising nowadays is a complex process but it can not stop us from exempting big companies since they are big.
In a nutshell, Facebook needs to follow the rules which are being laid down for everyone. The recent developments are a positive sign that improvement in the privacy and digital equality are slowly but justifiably on the right track.