The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) filed a complaint against Facebook Thursday for its targeted housing advertisement tools that allegedly discriminate against certain demographics.
The complaint follows a 2018 statement of interest that similarly alleged that the data that Facebook collects from its users including race, religion, zip codes and language capabilities are being used by housing advertisers to discriminate against certain populations. Although the ad targeting tool is used to improve a user’s experience by catering to their interests, advertisers are strategically using Facebook’s data to seek certain populations while excluding others from seeing their housing related ads. The ads range from financing mortgages, potential rentals from real estate listings and houses for sale posted by real estate agents.
Department Secretary Ben Carson issued a press release criticizing the role of technology in discriminatory housing practices that are a violation of the Fair Housing Act. Although Facebook has made modest efforts to reform their advertising business model by removing over 5,000 options previously available to online advertisers, the Department still believes that the current tools are being abused by advertisers to actively discriminate against certain communities.
The complaint comes after the social media platform recently reached a settlement with various civil rights organizations to improve their advertising practices.