Photo: Racial Profiling in Your Own E-Mails? How Google Profiles Users to Deliver Ads
Racial profiling is a hot topic these days, especially in Arizona, where the passing of controversial immigration laws are the most talked about in years, but now it seems Google is racially profiling its users to determine what ads to present to the user.
Nathan Newman, writer of The Cost of Lost Privacy: How Google and Datamining Drive Economic Inequality in Our Nation, examined multiple ads and their relation to the certain names, some chosen because of their “ethnic sound.”
While studying Google’s e-mail service Gmail, he discovered that based on user name and what they were e-mailing about, certain ads would appear. He found that while Google tells advertisers that they offer “highly relevant advertising” through programs like AdWords and Adsense, Google actually creates digital profiles for users based of names, surnames, class, and geographical location.
For example, for someone with the “white name” Jake Yoder sending an e-mail with the words “Buying a car” in the subject line, ads for car websites (GMC, BMW, etc.). When the same test was done using the name “Malik Hakim” however, the ads were different, and included at least one for bad credit auto loans. Newman said the same thing occurred when he used two other “black names”.
Other experiments with so-called Hispanic, black, and white names were also done using “Education”, “Need A Job”, “Loan Modification”, and “Need Cash”.
Each time, it was obvious that the ads were different for each group of names.
Google Chairman Eric Schmidt was set to testify before the Senate on this week and Newman said he was “hoping the senator [would] raise questions on what kinds of contextual and behavioral targeting Google allows in its advertising and what steps it has taken to stop racial and economic profiling that harms such groups.”