Amazon.com Inc was named in a lawsuit involving super-specific targeted advertising on the popular social media platform, Facebook. The lawsuit accuses Amazon of trying to show ads to a certain age group, those younger than 38, which is within Facebook’s targeting capabilities. While Facebook is not named in the lawsuit, this has been seen as an example of age discrimination, limiting the number of “older” people who would be able to apply for those open positions. Many ad platforms allow segmented targeting options, including age and gender. Also named in the lawsuit were 2 large scale internet/TV/phone providers, T-Mobile and Cox Communications.
The age discrimination lawsuit was filed in San Francisco, by the Communication Workers of America. Amazon has reportedly pulled their recruitment advertising for the time being. Facebook’s ad platform is based off user-data, and allows many different methods for those trying to market products or services to zero in on their client base. Beyond age and gender, ads can be targeted by religion, race, and even by “interest”; bringing up several more questions on the privacy of information on the web. For example, if you list “Catholicism” as your religion and “Ireland” as a place you are interested in, you could be targeted by airlines or travel companies encouraging you to rediscover your roots. This is just one example of how those in internet marketing can drill down and almost handpick their audience.
Facebook’s ad platform is certainly more advanced than many others out there. AdWords, which is Google’s main form of revenue, is a simple, keyword-based methodology that allows more levels and adjustments. The question of discrimination gets a bit murky here; if the information was given freely by the consumer, is there really a legitimate gripe if it is used to try and cater towards a certain group? If the job Amazon is advertising for involves physical activity, such as in a warehouse, is it age discrimination to prefer to hire someone younger, thinking that a younger person would be in better physical shape than an older person? Either way, it seems like Amazon and other companies will have to think twice before firing up a new ad campaign.