Tag Archives: USA Today

Racism Online: Facebook Profited From Racist Ads

Facebook-logo-PSDFacebook has allowed advertisers to discriminate against people of color. As simple as that. The world’s largest social media site is also the greatest collector of personal information in the history of mankind. To profit from this data Facebook allowed companies to advertise to certain groups while excluding others. The result is that African-Americans and people of color couldn’t learn about certain jobs, housing and financial opportunities; i.e credit.

Facebook has labeled its ultra targeted advertising capabilities as “Ethnic Affinity” marketing. Concern has grown among policy makers and civil rights leaders that marketers have used “Ethnic Affinity” marketing to discriminate against minorities. 

Facebook assigns users an “Ethnic Affinity” based on the pages and posts they have liked or engaged with. Facebook claims it bans advertisers from discriminating against racial or ethnic groups. 

Advertising that excludes people based on race, gender and other sensitive criteria are prohibited by federal law in housing and employment. Yet Facebook has made it possible and profitable. According to The Verge last year Facebook posted revenues of $17.93 billion in revenue in 2015 up 44 percent from 2014.  Almost all of it came from advertising. Facebook earns $13.54 for every user, up from $9 in the same quarter last year and that includes African-Americans and other minorities.

Facebook’s “Ethnic Affinity”marketing has come under fire from federal lawmakers for permitting advertisers to restrict its ads. This is known as red lining and it was common during the pre-civil rights era.

Pro Publica, a non-profit independent news website, exposed the practice after it placed an ad for a housing-related event that deliberately excluded African-Americans, Asian Americans, and Hispanics. The Department of Housing and Urban Development is responsible for enforcing fair housing laws acted by engaging Facebook with “serious concerns” about this discriminatory program.

Facebook users have filed a lawsuit seeking class action status against the social media behemoth. The group asserts that “Ethnic Affinity” marketing is discriminatory ad-targeting technology that violates the Fair Housing Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The complaint filed in the U.S. District Court of Northern California stated; “There is no mechanism to prevent ad buyers from purchasing ads related to employment/housing and then excluding based on these illegal characteristics.”  Facebook says the lawsuit is without merit and it will fight it.

However, Facebook has responded to the complaints and modified the discriminatory advertising program. Facebook’s vice president of U.S. public policy Erin Egan told USA Today, “We are going to turn off, actually prohibit, the use of “Ethnic Affinity” marketing for ads that we identify as offering housing, employment and credit.”

Facebook’s decided to change after discussions with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Illinois) and the Congressional Black Caucus, and Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) and the  Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Egan added that Facebook’s changes, in part, came from “constructive dialogue” with advocacy groups such as the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Fair Housing Alliance, and the Center for Democracy & Technology, the Brookings Institution and Upturn.

Regardless of what Facebook says, it isn’t killing “Ethnic Affinity” marketing altogether. Instead, the company claims to be building tools that will automatically disable the targeting for ads that involve housing, employment or credit.

Egan went on to say that “There are many non-discriminatory uses of our ethnic affinity solution in these areas, but we have decided that we can best guard against discrimination by suspending these types of ads. We will continue to explore ways that our ethnic affinity solutions can be used to promote inclusion of underrepresented communities, and we will continue to work with stakeholders toward that goal.”

Breaking It Down

First of all I am a Facebook user. Ok so who isn’t? But I have some serious issues with Facebook and it’s totally corporate behavior. By corporate behavior I mean that Facebook has engaged in a behavior that it had to know was wrong at best and illegal at it’s worst. But by being a corporation it got away with this racist practice as long as it could, took the profits before getting caught, and then saying “Ok, you got us. Sorry. We’ll fix it.” This is blatant corporate behavior and it it was deliberate. How can a company like Facebook, with a genius at the helm and literally thousands of very intelligent employees not see “Ethnic Affinity” marketing being misused? I’m not saying that Facebook designed the program to be discriminatory but it was being used that way and they had to have seen it. But as long as the money was rolling in and no one was complaining then lets keep it going. This is simply inexcusable. Yeah sue ’em! Make em pay! This cannot be tolerated!

Black Women Leading Corporate Diversity Programs

talton

Angela Talton

Diversity has become a buzz word in corporate America. Bringing new color and new perspectives to the workplace from the factory floor to the boardroom has never before been so urgent. Many corporations in the tech sector and the non-tech sector understand the need for inclusion has far reaching implications for industry and the nation.  Talented black women are being selected to drive this effort.

Nielsen Holdings, a leading audience measurement company, named Angela Talton  as its new Chief Diversity Officer. Talton is moving up from her former position of Senior Vice President of Global Diversity Inclusion.

According to a company press release Talton will continue to drive Nielsen’s diversity and inclusion programs including supplier diversity, training and employee engagement. Talton started at Nielsen in 2007 as senior vice president for global call center operations. Talton was formerly employed by Sears and ALLTEL Communications which was purchased by AT&T in 2013 . Talton attended University of North Carolina Chapel Hill where she earned a degree in business administration. She also secured an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Nielsen’s CEO Mitch Burns said of Talton, “Diversity and inclusion are crucial to our growth, strength, and ability to innovate.  Angela’s vision, leadership and execution have helped us re-imagine diversity at a global scale. As Nielsen’s Chief Diversity Officer, she will be a vital part of my leadership team and a champion for our company wide investments to ensure our business is representative of the communities where we live and work.

Candice Morgan

Candice Morgan

Pinterest has named Candice Morgan as their diversity chief.  Morgan worked at Catalyst Incorporated for 10 years where she focused on building diverse and inclusive work environments. Catalyst is a nonprofit research group tracking women in business. Morgan will report to Pinterest’s head of recruiting.

Pinterest is one of the few tech companies to publicly set out goals to employ more women and minorities.

Pinterest co-founder Evan Sharp said Morgan will “help build the programs and teams” Pinterest needs to reach its “creative potential as a company.” 

Pinterest’s business team is made up of two-thirds women. However that dominance is not reflected in other areas of the company. For example only 21 percent of the tech jobs, 19 percent of the engineering jobs and 16 percent of the company’s leadership positions are female.  Minority representation inside Pinterest reveals that only  8 percent of its employees weren’t white or Asian. Black or Hispanic employees accounted for 5 percent of business roles and less than 2 percent of engineering roles. Blacks and minorities are completely absent from leadership positions.

Pinterest is close to the half way point of meeting the self imposed hiring goals. Morgan is joining the company at a crucial time in this process. Her responsibilities will be to make sure Pinterest reaches those goals. She will also work with outside partners such as the diversity strategy firm Paradigm and internal employee groups. The company is seeking to increase the hiring rate for full-time engineering roles to 30 percent women and 8 percent minority. In July of 2015 those hiring rates were 21 percent and 2 percent respectively.

“Pinterest is willing to experiment and really sees that no one is getting it 100 percent right and there is no one solution,”  said Morgan in a statement to USA Today. “Pinterest knows to find solutions that work for Pinterest, it has to be innovative.”

Reaching diversity goals is an elusive target, ask any CEO. Most recently even Apple, the giant of the tech sector, had to admit it barely improved its diversity admitting the company remains mostly made up of white men.  

Apple efforts face an uphill battle since the even the board of directors seem to resisting diversity efforts.  Apple’s board voted down a proposal to increase the diversity of its board and senior management. The board described the proposal as “unduly burdensome and not necessary.” Apple’s board held up its ongoing scholarship programs for black students that provides 114 under-served U.S. schools with Apple products, and its sponsorship of the Grace Hopper conference for women in technology as evidence of its diversity efforts.

 

African-Americans and Data Breaches

national cyberWhy should black people worry about data breaches? Because the loss of data to cyber criminals is an exploding problem and awareness is the only way to protect yourself.

Data is everywhere. Wherever you have used your credit or debit card is a source of data. This is where information about you, your bank, credit records, buying habits and what cards you hold is stored and all with your name on it. If this information gets out “in the wild” people are now in your business and you know how black people feel about that and our money.

Lets look closer at where your information can be found. Here is a list of businesses that may hold information about you and your money. Add to this list any place you have used your credit or debit card.

  • Hotels and resorts
  • Restaurants
  • Ticket sellers
  • Entertainment companies
  • Sports teams
  • Fitness clubs
  • Salons and spas
  • Insurance companies
  • Mortgage companies
  • Utilities
  • Mobile phone providers
  • Internet providers
  • Money managers
  • Banks and credit unions
  • Credit card issuers
  • Hospitals
  • Pharmacies
  • Doctors and Dentist Offices
  • Auto repair shops
  • Hair and beauty salons
  • Daycare providers
  • Retail stores
  • Grocery stores
  • Gas stations

How serious are data breaches? According to USA Today 43% of businesses have suffered data breaches in the past year. Lets be real about that statistic; many of the large businesses will report a data breach especially when the breach involves millions of credit or debit cards. But smaller business may not report a data breach if they even realize they have had one. That’s why you should be concerned.

Not only are data breaches more frequent but they are increasing in size. The latest big data breaches at the big retailers have lost more than 300 million records. You are probably one of millions of black people who have shopped at Target, Kmart and Home Depot. Your data has been stolen.

If you want to see how serious this data problem has become here are a few frightening numbers from KrebsOnSecurity.com.

You would think with the ever increasing size and frequency of breaches businesses would be ready to act. But less than 30% of companies have a data breach response plan or team in place. That number is down from 39% of businesses that didn’t have them in the previous year. So the simple fact is that black people need to be concerned. We have to be knowledgeable and ready to act in the event of a data breach to protect our information.

But data breaches do not just strike retail businesses. Hospitals are big targets for hackers. According to Health IT & CIO Review since March there have been at least ten hospital data breaches. Los Angeles County Medical Facilities  alone lost nearly 170,000 patient medical records.

Director of Threat Intelligence at Phish Labs Don Jackson monitored underground hacking exchanges and found that cyber criminals can make 10 times as much money hacking hospital records than stealing your credit card data.  Hackers steal names, birth dates, and insurance policy numbers then use the data to create fake IDs to buy things like home medical equipment which can later be re-sold. The data is also used to file phony insurance claims. 

Now the question is what happens to all that stolen data. The new gold mine of the criminal world is data. AACR Rule #5, The currency and commodity of the digital age is called information. According to the RAND Corporation National Security Research Division  the stolen data black market has become more profitable than the drug trade. You read that correctly.

What black people should understand is that stolen data is far more than credit card numbers and personal information. Hackers can make money with pictures from your Facebook page and other social media outlets. Hackers see sites like LinkedIn and eHarmony as a treasure trove of passwords that can be used to update their “rainbow tables.” Rainbow Tables are huge databases hackers use to hack harder-to-crack encrypted passwords. Would you believe that hacked Twitter accounts are considered more profitable than stolen credit cards?

The bottom line is that black people are just as vulnerable as other Americans to hacks and data breaches. The difference is that collectively we may not be as savvy to what and how this information is used to steal from us or how to protect ourselves. Its strange because black people use mobile and online banking more than other groups. We need to step up our game.