Online search ads expose racial bias, study finds

Feb 04, 2013
The Google search page appears on a computer screen in Washington on August 30, 2010. Ads pegged to Google search results can be racially biased because of how certain names are associated with blacks or whites, according to a new study.

Ads pegged to Google search results can be racially biased because of how certain names are associated with blacks or whites, according to a new study.

Harvard University professor Latanya Sweeney found "statistically significant discrimination" when comparing ads served with results from online searches made using names associated with blacks and those with whites.

The study contrasted online searches using names such as "Ebony" and "DeShawn," with those such as "Jill" and "Geoffrey."

Ads posted alongside search results for names likely to belong to blacks tended to suggest criminal activity with offers along the lines of for arrests, according to the study.

Searches using white-sounding names prompted results with neutral ads, the Sweeney's research indicated.

The findings raise "questions as to whether 's exposes in society and how ad and search technology can develop to assure racial fairness," Sweeney said in a blog post.

Advertisers bid on terms, or key words, with high bidders getting their ads posted alongside corresponding search results. Google defends the process as race-neutral, saying outcomes are driven by decisions by advertisers.

The study dated last week was funded in part by the National Science Foundation and a grant from Google.

Explore further: Digital dilemma: How will US respond to Sony hack?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Brand name advertising clicks with online shoppers

Oct 03, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Brand names in online search engine advertising campaigns can attract more attention and encourage more sales than campaigns that use generic terms, according to Penn State researchers.

Google loosens Europe ad trademark controls

Aug 04, 2010

Google shook up its lucrative online advertising service in Europe on Wednesday, saying it would allow sellers to register other companies' brand names as search "keywords" when shopping on the Internet.

Facebook gets big slice of online display ad pie

May 04, 2011

Facebook served up nearly a third of the 1.11 trillion display ads delivered to US Internet users in the first three months of this year, industry tracker comScore said on Wednesday.

Google gives Gmail a new look

Nov 01, 2011

Google on Tuesday unveiled a new look for its free email service, inviting users to switch if they like what they see.

Recommended for you

Digital dilemma: How will US respond to Sony hack?

Dec 18, 2014

The detective work blaming North Korea for the Sony hacker break-in appears so far to be largely circumstantial, The Associated Press has learned. The dramatic conclusion of a Korean role is based on subtle ...

UN General Assembly OKs digital privacy resolution

Dec 18, 2014

The U.N. General Assembly has approved a resolution demanding better digital privacy protections for people around the world, another response to Edward Snowden's revelations about U.S. government spying.

Online privacy to remain thorny issue: survey

Dec 18, 2014

Online privacy will remain a thorny issue over the next decade, without a widely accepted system that balances user rights and personal data collection, a survey of experts showed Thursday.

Spain: Google News vanishes amid 'Google Tax' spat

Dec 16, 2014

Google on Tuesday followed through with a pledge to shut down Google News in Spain in reaction to a Spanish law requiring news publishers to receive payment for content even if they are willing to give it away.

User comments : 7

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

jscroft
2.7 / 5 (7) Feb 04, 2013
Gosh, you mean nobody thought of testing "Juan" and "Vladimir"???
Ludlow T Wombat
3.4 / 5 (5) Feb 04, 2013
This is shameful stereotyping. How can there be "names likely to belong to blacks?" Next, people will be claiming that certain sports are more likely to be played by distinct racial groups; for example: basketball versus, say, hockey.
mjlavall
3.9 / 5 (7) Feb 04, 2013
I find it humorous that when a search engine like Google finds links between "typical black names" and "criminal activity" the search results are considered to be racist. As if Google is just pulling these connections out of nowhere, they must be prejudiced. I guess we should ignore the facts and pretend everyone is equal.
gwrede
3.3 / 5 (7) Feb 05, 2013
I searched the author, Latanya Sweeney, on images.google.com. No more on that.

The findings raise "questions as to whether Google's advertising technology exposes racial bias in society and how ad and search technology can develop to assure racial fairness," Sweeney said in a blog post.


Now, that is the solution! Tweak search engines to always return a Politically Correct Distribution of Results, and always check that ads are served in a racially and gender fair manner.

Yes, let's eradicate differences and make everyone equal! Let's tattoo everybody green, so no race shines from our faces. And lets neuter everybody into a Ken/Barbie look. And passports should only show a single sex: "Fixed".

I promise to vote this Latanya to Congress!
Infinum
1 / 5 (5) Feb 05, 2013
Google ads are only a response to people's queries and behavior online. Those ads are like a tool that measures racial bias in population.

It is the users/people who are racially biased, ads only reflect that simple truth.
bertibus
1.8 / 5 (5) Feb 05, 2013
@Infinum The ads reflect no bias. They are mathematically driven and reflect real world crime numbers.
obama_socks
1 / 5 (4) Feb 05, 2013
bertibus is correct. But "Cause and effect" also plays a great part in determining which ads are best suited for Search results. Crime statistics may or may not be a factor but are still not a form of racial bias against Blacks since the great majority of criminal activity is done by members of the White population in America. Having said that about White criminals, it cannot be said that I have expressed a racial bias against Whites either. The criminal mind knows no "race".

An article I recently read re: Dr. Thomas Sowell's book about Redneck Blacks, (Professor Sowell is a Conservative American economist who is also Black), brings to light many of the causes and effects of the Black experience in Africa and America.

http://www.vdare....fficient

As I have not purchased Dr. Sowell's book as yet, I look forward to reading it. finding out exactly where his ideas are insufficient.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.