Reply to post: Re: A pox on people behaving sterotypically

Facebook ad platform discriminates all on its own, say boffins


Re: A pox on people behaving sterotypically

Checking the gender of El Reg readers algorithmicly and replacing the job advert with one for cosmetics if you think I'm female - immoral, stupid, and arguably illegal.

I agree, this would be illegal, but the paper isn't saying that coders have written code along the lines of:

if == 'female' then Display('cosmetics')

What the paper is arguing is that when code like this:

Match(User.interests, available_ads)

returns 'cosmetics' it has done so correctly based on the user's interests, but when you look at the aggregate set of users for whom 'cosmetics' was returned, you notice that it is predominantly women. Since this 'clustering' is higher than you would expect from a random sampling of users, the algorithm is inadvertently discriminating towards women (or against non-women). Since sex discrimination is illegal, this algorithmic bias is "illegal".

Consider this from a different angle. If the algorithm predominantly showed ads for Romulan Ale to people who are Star Trek fans, but not Star Wars fans, you could make the same argument that it discriminates against Star Wars fans (or discriminates toward Star Trek fans) when choosing to place ads for Romulan Ale. If Star Trek and Star Wars fanship was a protected category, this would be "illegal".

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