There has been a recent complaint filed by the HUD board against Facebook Ads. The complaint briefs that, Facebook ads have been customized in such a way that it promoted discrimination. The complaint from the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development came up on Friday following the earlier complaints from the National Fair Housing Alliance and similar housing groups. Facebook is already fighting in court with the latter groups after their complaint in the past year.
The Violation of the Act
It is no secret that Facebook tracks all the user data. With the huge amount of personal data available, Facebook has been customizing the ad results based on the search history and the profile of an individual. While this may be useful for some, Facebook’s ad setting has been in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
With the available options, the sellers and landlords can target a particular demographic and tailor the message accordingly. This will result in an unfair marketplace where a set of people will not be open to the ads because of their demographic. HUD’s complaint explained that Facebook takes in to account the race, religion, sex, national origin and similar attributes of an individual, then designs the ad accordingly. This is a violation of the 1968 Civil Rights Act.
The internet is open to all, and everyone has the equal opportunity to search for a property on the open market. But when there is a disregard to the above statement the Fair Housing Act comes in to rescue. Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, Anna Maria Farias went on to clear the air that Fair Housing Act will ensure equal opportunity to all even if it is done online. The statement also added that while Facebook collects user data, it joins hand with advertisers to modify the data according to consumers. This is equal to slamming the door in one’s face.
The Response from Facebook
After the continued allegations, Facebook immediately responded saying it has never been a supporter of abuse. Even then it has acknowledged that the internet has given the option of collecting user data and there are chances for misusing it.
Issuing a statement to the Washington Post, Facebook was strong in stating that the company does not encourage discrimination and it is a violation of their policy. With the set of condemns received Facebook was not afraid to quote that they will handle the issues in court.
The company seems to be taking special efforts to protect the user data and to prevent the misuse of it. With the efforts being put for the past year one can only hope that such incidents do not repeat in the future.
While Facebook’s battle in court seems never-ending, the company was still clear on giving its support to the HUD. Facebook showed interest in joining hands with HUD directly to tackle similar issues in the housing department and to avoid future chaos.