Google Ads Revises Policies to Curb Discriminatory Practice

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Google Ads, Google’s advertising platform, is updating its policies to prevent marketers who promote credit, employment and housing services from targeting customers based on a number of sensitive categories. This follows an initiative with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to curb such targeting.

Advertisers in the U.S. and Canada will no longer be able to target or exclude ads based on age, gender, marital and/or parental status as well as ZIP code.

The update aligns with the preexisting Google Ads policies, which prohibit the targeting or personalization of ad campaigns based on other sensitive categories such as ethnicity, race, religion and sexual orientation.

Google claims the most recent updates were made to improve access to housing, employment and credit opportunities. The exact timeline of the policy rollout, which has been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, is expected in the coming weeks.

“Our Google Ads policies are written to protect users, advertisers and publishers, and prohibit advertisers from unlawful behavior like discrimination against users,” wrote Scott Spencer, vp of product, in a blog post, which also notes that users can opt out of personalized ads.

Google told Adweek its ongoing initiative with HUD began in 2019, and the timing of the announcement was not necessarily driven by the ongoing global wave of protests against racial injustice, a movement that has seen certain advertisers and Big Tech brands such as Facebook come under fire. Although it is worth noting that today’s announcement from Google echoes similar policy changes made by Facebook last year.

“As part of our effort, we’ll provide housing advertisers with additional information about fair housing to help ensure they are acting in ways that support access to housing opportunities,” Spencer wrote. “We will also continue to work with HUD, civil rights and housing experts and the broader advertising industry to address concerns around discrimination in ad targeting.”

In a separate statement shared with Adweek, HUD Secretary Ben Carson said, “Improvements are underway in the online advertising space, and HUD encourages platforms such as Google to take these types of steps to eliminate unlawful discrimination in advertising and seek to ensure compliance with our Nation’s Fair Housing laws.”

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