Facebook says it will make advertisements for jobs, loans and credit card offers searchable for all US users following a legal settlement designed to eliminate discrimination on its platform.
The plan disclosed in an internal report Sunday voluntarily expands on a commitment the social media giant made in March when it agreed to make its US housing ads searchable by location and advertiser.
Ads were only delivered selectively to Facebook users based on such data as what they earn, their education level and where they shop.
The searchable housing ads database will roll out by the end of 2019, Facebook says, and the employment and financial product offerings databases to be available within the next year.
Targeted ads tailored to individuals are Facebook’s bread and butter accounting for all but a sliver of its more than USD 50 billion in annual revenues last year.
It’s unlikely that making the ads searchable would have a significant effect on Facebook’s business.
Analysts have cautioned, however, that any restrictions on Facebook’s ability to target ads could scare off advertisers.
The move is likely part of Facebook’s strategy to show regulators that is doing a good job policing its own service putting it in compliance with existing anti-discrimination law and doesn’t need a heavy-handed approach from lawmakers. It comes as the company is facing increasing regulatory pressures.
As part of the settlement with plaintiffs including the ACLU and the National Fair Housing Alliance, Facebook agreed in March to stop targeting people based on age, gender and zip code and to also eliminate such categories as national origin and sexual orientation.
The groups had sued claiming Facebook violated anti-discrimination laws by preventing audiences including single mothers and the disabled from seeing many housing ads while some job ads were not reaching women and older workers.
Civil rights groups are concerned that the secretive, proprietary algorithms that govern how the company steers ads even when not consciously targeting specific groups could still be discriminatory.