Facebook drops targeting options for housing, job, and credit ads after controversy

As part of a legal agreement with civil rights groups, Facebook said today it will finalize some targeting options for potentially discriminatory ads.

The company said that anyone who posts ads for housing, employment or credit can not point to Users by age, gender or zip code. Previously, the company eliminated segmentation by "multicultural affinity," an option that could be used to exclude Facebook users by race.

Facebook's advertising practices were examined after ProPublica published a series of articles showing how targeting options could be be used to discriminate. The company soon faced legal action by civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, and announced the changes today as part of an agreement. The groups argued that the orientation options violated the laws that prohibited discriminatory advertising.

Facebook says it will also build a tool that can be used to view ads for specific homes, a move similar to a database the company created after a controversy over specific political announcements. The ACLU said in a statement that the company also agreed to meet regularly with plaintiffs on the progress of its reforms, and will require advertisers to certify compliance with anti-discrimination laws.

"Housing, employment and credit announcements are crucial to help people buy new homes, start big careers and get access to credit," said operations director Sheryl Sandberg in a blog about the changes. "They should never be used to exclude or harm people."

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