Last month, nonprofit journalism website ProPublica revealed that advertisers can use Facebook’s tools to segment populations in potentially discriminatory ways. Specifically, ProPublica was able to create an ad for a housing forum that would filter out people whom Facebook thinks have an “affinity” for communities of color.
The social media site says that the tools—which have been around for two years and are housed in the “demographics” portion of the advertisement creation form—assign an affinity based on what users engage with while using the site. But as Vice noted in an article posted Wednesday (November 16), there is no category for people whom it identifies as White: “Even if you post incessantly about pumpkin spice lattes, Donald Trump and yacht parties, Facebook won’t put you in the ‘White’ category, because there isn’t one.”
Following ProPublica’s report, which outlined how the tool can be used to violate the Fair Housing Act of 1968, Facebook agreed to disable ethnic affinity segmentation for ads that offer housing, employment and credit.
Meanwhile, it’s interesting to know just how Facebook synthesizes use and draws conclusions about who users are and what they want to see while using the site. You can find out who Facebook thinks you are by clicking here and selecting the “Lifestyle and Culture” tab. From ethnic affinity to ideals on religion to leanings in the political arena, you’ll be treated to a treatise on yourself. How well does Facebook have you pegged?