Am I Next? Automated Age Discrimination, Facebook

According to an investigative report from ProPublica and the New York Times, it appears that many of the nation’s most prominent companies like Amazon, Goldman Sachs, Target, Verizon, UPS, and Facebook have apparently engaged in a form of automated age discrimination on Facebook by choosing to limit the display of available jobs to selected criteria, including age ranges.

Some claim that this practice may be “blatantly unlawful” while others suggest that the companies are targeting their advertising in a cost-effective manner on a cohort that is indicative of the company’s culture.

Of course, Facebook disagrees. Ron Goldman, Vice President of Facebook Advertising has claimed in a news release that, “Used responsibly, age-based targeting for employment purposes is an accepted industry practice and for good reason: it helps employers recruit and people of all ages find work.” However, Goldman also states that: “In the last year ProPublica has uncovered a number of different flaws in our advertising systems. Several of them were serious failures on our part. It’s why we apologized and took immediate action to prevent them in the future.” Justifying Facebook’s targeting practice by claiming, “US law forbids discrimination in employment based on age, race, gender and other legally protected characteristics. That said, simply showing certain job ads to different age groups on services like Facebook or Google may not in itself be discriminatory — just as it can be OK to run employment ads in magazines and on TV shows targeted at younger or older people. What matters is that marketing is broadly based and inclusive, not simply focused on a particular age group. In addition, certain employers want to attract retirees, or recruit for jobs with specific age restrictions like the military or airline pilots.”

It should come as no surprise that someone sought to litigate the issue by bringing a legal action against Facebook in the United States District Court for Northern California.

“In this action, the Communications Workers of America (“CWA”), Linda Bradley, Maurice Anscombe, and Lura Callahan (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) seek to vindicate the rights of older workers to be free of age discrimination in employment advertising, recruitment, and hiring. They bring this action against T-Mobile US, Inc. (“T-Mobile”),, Inc. (“Amazon”), Cox Communications, Inc., Cox Media Group, LLC (collectively, “Cox”), and a Defendant Class of hundreds of major American employers and employment agencies that, upon information and belief, routinely exclude older workers from receiving their employment and recruiting ads on Facebook, and thus deny older workers job opportunities. These companies eliminate older workers from receiving job ads by specifically targeting their employment ads to younger workers via Facebook’s ad platform.”

Perhaps it is time for older Americans to rethink what personal information they provide on social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and others.