Three Facebook Messenger app users file lawsuit over privacy breaches

Ruben Fields
April 2, 2018

Fair housing advocates sued Facebook Tuesday, saying it lets landlords and real estate brokers target advertising to discriminate against women, those with disabilities and families with children.

"Although Facebook stopped approving housing advertisements that used its "ethnic affinity" option in late 2017, it continues to create and develop content that facilitates advertisers excluding certain audiences based on legally protected characteristics", the lawsuit said.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits home rental and sale advertisements from discriminating "based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin".

A Facebook representative could not immediately be reached for comment. "Facebook is not above the law and must answer these civil rights claims in court".

"There is absolutely no place for discrimination on Facebook", a company spokesperson said in a statement provided to CNN. "We believe this lawsuit is without merit, and we will defend ourselves vigorously", said a spokesman for Facebook. So far, Mark Zuckerberg hasn't exactly been overwhelmed with contrition over Facebook's data harvesting or the alleged illegitimacy of Cambridge Analytica's use of Facebook profile data.

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With the tech giant under scrutiny, every piece of data we share with the company knowingly or not, is getting a second look.

To test its case, the NFHA submitted a fictitious ad in San Antonio for an apartment for rent, using Facebook presets that allowed them to exclude "parents with toddlers", "parents with preschoolers", "parents with early school-age children", "parents with teenagers", and "parents with preteens", while targeting "men".

After the NFHA sent Facebook a letter regarding the issue in 2016, the company has "repeatedly promised" to remedy the discriminatory potential of its advertising platform.

The suit seeks class-action status.

The lawsuit's explanation of how the discrimination is carried out begins with a description that would sound appealing to most advertisers.

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