Social network smacks back: Accusers say it helps recruiters target age-groups in job ads

Meanwhile, class action sueball flung

Public interest publisher ProPublica has once again accused Facebook of misbehaviour, but this time Mark Zuckerberg's ad-farm is pushing back.

ProPublica previously rattled The Social Network by demonstrating how advertisers were targeting “Jew-haters” in their Facebook ad profiling.

That led to a rare bout of Zuckerbergian soul-searching, but precious little self-awareness. As we wrote at the time, ignorance followed by contrition is part of the fundamental coin of Facebook and Google.

However, when ProPublica attacked Facebook on the premise that it was helping advertisers age-filter job applicants, Facebook's response was combative rather than contrite.

ProPublica's joint investigation with The New York Times turned up instances where Verizon, Amazon, Goldman Sachs, Target, and Facebook placed recruitment ads “limited to particular age groups”, and wrote that “using the system to expose job opportunities only to certain age groups has raised concerns about fairness to older workers”.

The Communications Workers of America union agreed: it filed a federal court class action lawsuit (PDF) in San Francisco claiming age discrimination on Wednesday.

In its response, Facebook defended its own age-targeted recruitment advertisements as part of “broader-based recruitment efforts designed to reach all ages and all backgrounds”. It added:

“We completely reject the allegation that these advertisements are discriminatory.”

As far as other recruiters are concerned, Facebook acknowledged that American law forbids age discrimination in employment (as well as race, gender and so on), but said, “What matters is that marketing is broadly based and inclusive, not simply focused on a particular age group.”

“We’ve also begun requiring businesses that show employment ads on Facebook to certify that they comply with the law before we show their ads”, Zuck's lot added.

As lawyers speaking to ProPublica stated, while the law is clear that age discrimination is illegal, liability is a grey area. Tech companies like to describe themselves as passive vessels for others' publishing decisions, to stay within reach of "safe harbour" defences.

However, getting businesses to explicitly certify that they're obeying the law hints that Facebook wants to make sure wherever liability lands, it's not in Menlo Park.

Some employers, ProPublica reported, responded by removing age-targeting from recruitment advertisements. These included Amazon, Northwestern Mutual, and the New York City Department of Education.

Facebook wasn't the only platform found with age-targeting: Google and LinkedIn were also pinged in the investigation. LinkedIn changed its system to exclude age, Google did not. ®

Narrower topics

Other stories you might like

  • Robotics and 5G to spur growth of SoC industry – report
    Big OEMs hogging production and COVID causing supply issues

    The system-on-chip (SoC) side of the semiconductor industry is poised for growth between now and 2026, when it's predicted to be worth $6.85 billion, according to an analyst's report. 

    Chances are good that there's an SoC-powered device within arm's reach of you: the tiny integrated circuits contain everything needed for a basic computer, leading to their proliferation in mobile, IoT and smart devices. 

    The report predicting the growth comes from advisory biz Technavio, which looked at a long list of companies in the SoC market. Vendors it analyzed include Apple, Broadcom, Intel, Nvidia, TSMC, Toshiba, and more. The company predicts that much of the growth between now and 2026 will stem primarily from robotics and 5G. 

    Continue reading
  • Deepfake attacks can easily trick live facial recognition systems online
    Plus: Next PyTorch release will support Apple GPUs so devs can train neural networks on their own laptops

    In brief Miscreants can easily steal someone else's identity by tricking live facial recognition software using deepfakes, according to a new report.

    Sensity AI, a startup focused on tackling identity fraud, carried out a series of pretend attacks. Engineers scanned the image of someone from an ID card, and mapped their likeness onto another person's face. Sensity then tested whether they could breach live facial recognition systems by tricking them into believing the pretend attacker is a real user.

    So-called "liveness tests" try to authenticate identities in real-time, relying on images or video streams from cameras like face recognition used to unlock mobile phones, for example. Nine out of ten vendors failed Sensity's live deepfake attacks.

    Continue reading
  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022