The Department of Housing and Urban Development [HUD] has alleged that Facebook’s targeted advertising practices violate the Fair Housing Act by “encouraging, enabling, and causing” unlawful discrimination. The HUD says Facebook breaks the law by allowing users to restrict who can view housing ads. This month, Facebook agreed to change its targeted-advertising system to settle accusations that landlords use the platform to discriminate. The settlement compelled Facebook to withhold some demographic information—such as gender, age and ZIP Codes, which can be used as race indicators—from advertisers when they market housing.
Facebook fired back, claiming in a statement that while it had been working with HUD to resolve the issue, talks broke down when the department demanded total access to user data. “We’re surprised by HUD’s decision, as we’ve been working with them to address their concerns,” a spokesman told Washington Post reporter Tracy Jan. “While we were eager to find a solution, HUD insisted on access to sensitive information—like user data—without adequate safeguards.”