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Facebook Lets Advertisers Target Users Based on Sensitive Interests

Among the interests found in users' profiles were communism, social democrats, Hinduism and Christianity, it stated

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LinkedIn faced probe for Facebook ads targeting 18 mn non-members. Pixabay

Just a few days ahead of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into effect, a Guardian investigation has found that Facebook lets advertisers to target users it thinks are interested in sensitive subjects such as homosexuality, Islam or liberalism.

Religion, sexuality and political beliefs are explicitly marked out as sensitive information under new data protection laws, said the report on Wednesday.

Facebook, according to the report, collects information about users based on their browsing habit and activities on the social network, and uses that information to predict on their interests and then categorise them based on inferred interests such as Islam or homosexuality.

Also Read: Facebook Reports Increased Posts of Graphic Violence in Q1 2018

Facebook is able to infer extremely personal information about users, which it allows advertisers to use for targeting purposes, found the Guardian investigation conducted in conjunction with the Danish Broadcasting Corporation.

Among the interests found in users’ profiles were communism, social democrats, Hinduism and Christianity, it stated.

Facebook.
Facebook. Pixabay

The GDPR which comes into effect on May 25 labels such categories of information as sensitive and mandates special conditions around how they can be collected and processed.

While Facebook, as part of its GDPR-focused updates, asked every user to confirm whether or not “political, religious, and relationship information” they had entered on the site should continue to be stored or displayed, it gathered no such consent for information it had inferred about users.

Facebook, however, said that classifying a user’s interests was not the same as classifying their personal traits.

Also Read: Facebook Plans to Launch its Own Cryptocurrency

“Like other Internet companies, Facebook shows ads based on topics we think people might be interested in, but without using sensitive personal data,” Facebook was quoted as saying

“Our advertising complies with relevant EU law and, like other companies, we are preparing for the GDPR to ensure we are compliant when it comes into force,” it added. (IANS)

Next Story

Social Media Giant Facebook to Curb Discrimination in Housing, Job Ads

Any detailed targeting option describing or appearing to relate to protected classes will also be unavailable

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This photo shows a Facebook app icon on a smartphone in New York. VOA

In a bid to avoid discrimination in ads related to housing, jobs and credits, Facebook has announced new changes where anyone who wants to run such ads will no longer be allowed to target by age, gender or zip code.

These changes are the result of settlement agreements with leading civil rights organisations and ongoing input from civil rights experts, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said in a blog post late Tuesday.

Last year, the US National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and other private parties, filed litigation against Facebook, saying it needs to build stronger protections against abuse.

Facebook
Facebook, social media. Pixabay

“Our policies already prohibit advertisers from using our tools to discriminate. We’ve removed thousands of categories from targeting related to protected classes such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion. But we can do better,” said Sandberg.

Advertisers offering housing, employment and credit opportunities will now have a much smaller set of targeting categories to use in their campaigns overall.

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Any detailed targeting option describing or appearing to relate to protected classes will also be unavailable.

“We’re building a tool so you can search for and view all current housing ads in the US targeted to different places across the country, regardless of whether the ads are shown to you,” said the Facebook COO. (IANS)