Facebook has come under intense scrutiny over the past several years for its ad platform, which enabled marketers to target users on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, religion and more. This feature was particularly criticized by legal experts, who said it could be used to discriminate against people seeking housing. Apparently the U.S. government agreed, because this week, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) filed charges against Facebook.
This legal challenge comes just a week after Facebook agreed to $5 million settlement with several housing advocacy groups over the same issue. However, the government seems to have a problem with the way Facebook’s ad strategy operates in general.
“Facebook is discriminating against people based upon who they are and where they live,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in a statement. “Using a computer to limit a person’s housing choices can be just as discriminatory as slamming a door in someone’s face.”
For its part, Facebook was clearly surprised by the charges, and hit back at HUD by claiming that the government wanted to pry into users’ private data while working with the company to address the problem.
“HUD insisted on access to sensitive information — like user data — without adequate safeguards,” Facebook said. “We’re disappointed by today’s developments, but we’ll continue working with civil rights experts on these issues.”
For a moment it seemed as if Facebook’s latest privacy controversy had finally been put to bed. However, this lawsuit guarantees it’s going to be a major headache for the social media giant for a long time to come.
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