Study finds that women searching for jobs on Google are less likely to be shown the high-paid jobs that men are
Google shows less adverts for high-paid jobs to women than it does to men, according to researchers from Carnegie Mellon University.
The researchers said that they found setting the gender in their Google results test to ‘female’ resulted in “getting fewer instances of an ad related to high paying jobs than setting it to male”.
“We cannot determine who caused these findings due to our limited visibility into the ad ecosystem, which includes Google, advertisers, websites, and users,” said the researchers in their paper’s abstract. “Nevertheless, these results can form the starting point for deeper investigations by either the companies themselves or by regulatory bodies.”
The researchers created a tool called ‘AdFisher’, a tool that explores how user behaviours, Google’s ads, and Ad Settings interact. Adfisher uses Google’s Ad Settings webpage, which provides information about the profiles Google creates on users, to run browser-based experiments and study data using machine learning.
The research paper also found that users who visit sites linked with drug abuse changes the ads they are shown.
“We…found evidence suggestive of discrimination from another experiment. We set the agents’ gender to female or male on Google’s Ad Settings page. We then had both the female and male groups of agents visit webpages associated with employment,” said the researchers.
“We established that Google used this gender information to select ads, as one might expect. The interesting result was how the ads differed between the groups: during this experiment, Google showed the simulated males ads from a certain career coaching agency that promised large salaries more frequently than the simulated females, a finding suggestive of discrimination.”
The researchers noted that, while discrimination in inherent to profiling as ” the point of profiling is to treat some people differently”, the customisation present here in returning ad results is “inappropriate” and takes on negative connotations on discrimination.