On June 21, 2022, the Department of Justice announced the settlement of a suit against a multinational technology company for an advertisement algorithm that may have resulted in discriminatory advertising in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
The underlying complaint associated with the settlement alleges that the company used discriminatory marketing in violation of the Fair Housing Act in three respects: (i) trait-based targeting; (ii) “lookalike” targeting; and (iii) delivery determinations. These advertisement mechanisms included and excluded users based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, and national origin. The DOJ alleged that this structure resulted in both disparate treatment and disparate impact discrimination.
The Settlement terms require the company to discontinue the use of its housing advertisement tools that allegedly rely on Fair Housing Act protected characteristics to determine ad eligibility. Additionally, the company must build a new advertisement delivery method to address discriminatory marketing and ensure a more diverse distribution of housing ads by December of 2022. In accordance with the settlement, the new system will be investigated and reviewed by a third party to ensure compliance, and the parties will meet on a monthly basis until December to discuss the ongoing development of the new advertising system.
Further, the settlement requires the company to pay the maximum civil penalty of $115,054 under the Fair Housing Act, and that the company will “provide training on the FHA to the following employee groups: Ads Leadership Team, Regulated Ads Solutions, Mega-Taxonomy/Content Understanding Team, Machine Learning Team in BI, Ranking Feature Engineers, Ads Policy, and Advertising Product Counsel.”