New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has ordered the Department of Financial Services to look into reports that state-regulated advertisers have been using Facebook’s advertising platform to discriminate against select users.
“The allegations against Facebook advertisers are extremely troubling and fly in the face of everything that New York stands for,” Governor Cuomo said in a press release. “I am calling on the Department of Financial Services to investigate these claims and help ensure that New Yorkers seeking housing for themselves and their families are not discriminated against in any way. We will take aggressive action and ensure that those who are behind these reprehensible alleged practices are held fully accountable.”
Financial Services Superintendent Linda A. Lacewell added, “DFS is committed to ensuring that all New Yorkers are protected and not discriminated against, no matter whether they’re engaging in social media apps or simply opening a bank account. The Department will investigate Facebook advertisers to examine these disturbing allegations, and we are prepared to take whatever measures necessary to make certain that all financial services providers are in compliance with New York’s stringent statutory and regulatory consumer protections.”
Reports allege that Facebook’s advertising platform enables advertisers to modify or block ads using ZIP code information in order to exclude consumers based on race, color, national origin, religion, familial status, sex and disability, among others. In addition, the social media site allegedly uses machine learning and predictive analytics to categorize users based on their likely response to certain ads, which can then recreate groupings defined by their protected class.
“Large social media platforms have unprecedented access to our personal data. It is critical that we take a proactive approach in protecting our private data and preventing digital discrimination. I applaud Governor Cuomo for recognizing the seriousness of this issue, and for taking action to ensure that our personal data is not being used in deceiving and discriminatory ways. I am confident that DFS will work to address this critically important issue and continue to promote the protection of consumer privacy across New York State,” said Senator Kevin Thomas, Senate Chair of Consumer of Affairs Committee.
This isn’t the first time Cuomo has ordered agencies to look into Facebook. Following reports that the social media giant secretly accessed personal information of users, the Governor directed the New York Department of State, Department of Financial Services and other state agencies to launch an investigation in February.