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Google will make it impossible for lenders and Realtors to target consumers based on ZIP code, demographics

Goal is to prevent housing discrimination

Google announced it is tightening its policies, prohibiting employment, housing and credit advertisers from targeting or excluding ads based on certain demographics and ZIP codes.

The company explained that it has long prohibited advertisers from targeting users based on “sensitive categories” related to their identity, beliefs, sexuality or personal hardships. This means the company doesn’t allow targeting based on categories like race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, national origin or disability.

But now, Google is adding several new categories to that list to improve access to housing, employment and credit opportunities. 

The new policy will prohibit impacted advertisers from targeting or excluding ads based on gender, age, parental status, marital status or ZIP code. The company expects these changes to take effect by the end of 2020.

“While the changing circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic and business continuity issues for many advertisers make precise timelines difficult, we plan to roll out this update in the U.S. and Canada as soon as possible and, in any event, by the end of this year,” Google stated. “We will be providing advertisers with more information about how these changes may impact them in the coming weeks.”

Google worked closely with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to make these changes to its policy, and said it will provide advertisers with additional fair housing information through this transition in order “to help ensure they are acting in ways that support access to housing opportunities.” 

Google isn’t the first company to make changes to its housing ad policies. Last year, Facebook made massive changes to its ad platform after being accused by HUD of enabling housing discrimination.

The changes came after years of scrutiny into Facebook’s ad practices, which appeared to allow advertisers to purposefully exclude certain people from seeing housing, employment or lending ads.

Google stated that it plans to continue working with HUD, civil rights and housing experts and the broader advertising industry to address concerns around discrimination in ad targeting.

“Google is committed to working with the broader advertising ecosystem to help set high standards for online advertising, and we will continue to strive to set policies that improve inclusion and access for users,” the company stated.

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