Researchers Probe Online Ad-Targeting Bias


As algorithmic decision-making touches more and more aspects of our lives, questions about the underlying rules that route these bits and bytes — and ultimately determine the digital content and opportunities we are exposed to — are growing.

A study by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and the International Computer Science Institute, reported this week in the MIT Technology Review, has highlighted potential gender bias in Google’s ad-targeting algorithms. The researchers found that male job seekers were more likely than equivalent female job seekers to be shown ads for high-paying executive jobs when they visited a news website.

The researchers used a tool of their own making, called AdFisher, to gain intel on how Google’s ad-targeting works, recording the ads served by Google on third party websites after created scores of carefully curated web user profiles — giving them a benchmark to compare how ads were being served to users based on their interests and gender.

However they caution it’s difficult to definitively determine how ads…

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