Google search ad results can be racially biased because of one's name, a new report said.
Latanya Sweeney, a professor of computer science at Harvard University, found that there was discrimination when comparing ads given with online searches when users had names that were commonly associated with blacks and those with whites, according to Agence France Presse.
The study contrasted online searches using names such as "Ebony" and "DeShawn," with those such as "Jill" and "Geoffrey." . . . Ads posted alongside search results for names likely to belong to blacks tended to suggest criminal activity with offers along the lines of background checks for arrests, according to the study.
Sweeney's research, partially funded by the National Science Foundation and a grant from Google, seemed to indicate that white-sounding names produced neutral and inoffensive ads. She also said that it exposes a "racial bias" and technology companies should come up with a way to make ads and search results more fair.
But because advertisers bid on key words, they are the ones driving search results ads. Google said the process is race-neutral because advertisers create how their ad is tagged.
Unfortunately we don't live in a race-neutral society, so the idea that Google's ads will be is a bit of a stretch even for its amazing algorithm. The reality is that Google has to make a larger effort to get rid of this perception that its search or ads associated with it are racially-tinged.
Published at 7:58 AM PDT on Feb 6, 2013