Responding to criticism that its "ethnic affinity" marketing options for advertisers could lead to discrimination, Facebook last week announced that it is changing its advertising system. According to a blog post authored by Facebook vice president of U.S. public policy and chief privacy officer Erin Egan, Facebook is disabling "the use of ethnic affinity marketing for ads that we identify as offering housing, employment, or credit."
"Policymakers and civil rights leaders have expressed concerns that advertisers could misuse some aspects of our affinity marketing segments," Egan wrote. "Specifically, they’ve raised the possibility that some advertisers might use these segments to run ads that discriminate against people, particularly in areas where certain groups have historically faced discrimination — housing, employment and the extension of credit." One civil rights lawyer told Pro Publica the system is "as blatant a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act as one can find.”
Facebook is also updating its advertising policy information "to be even more explicit and require advertisers to affirm that they will not engage in discriminatory advertising on Facebook."