Google ads study shows fewer women shown online adverts related to high-paying jobs

By: | Published: July 8, 2015 6:55 PM

Lesser number of women as compared to men are shown online ads promising high-salary jobs, a new study of Google ads by researchers, including those of Indian origin, has found.

Lesser number of women as compared to men are shown online ads promising high-salary jobs, a new study of Google ads by researchers, including those of Indian origin, has found.

Experiments by Carnegie Mellon University showed that significantly fewer women than men were shown online ads promising them help getting jobs paying more than USD 200,000, raising questions about the fairness of targeting ads online.

The study of Google ads, using a CMU-developed tool called AdFisher that runs experiments with simulated user profiles, established that the gender discrimination was real, said Anupam Datta, associate professor of computer science and of electrical and computer engineering.

“This just came out of the blue,” Datta said of the gender discrimination finding, which was part of a larger study of the operation of Google’s Ad Settings Web page, formerly known as Ad Preferences.

“Many important decisions about the ads we see are being made by online systems. Oversight of these ‘black boxes’ is necessary to make sure they don’t compromise our values,” said Datta.

The study used the automated AdFisher tool to run 21 experiments evaluating Ad Settings, a Web page Google created to give users some control over the ads delivered to them.

AdFisher creates hundreds of simulated users, enabling researchers to run browser-based experiments in which they can identify various effects from changes in preferences or online behaviour.

To study the impact of gender, researchers used AdFisher to create 1,000 simulated users u2014 half designated male, half female – and had them visit 100 top employment sites.

When AdFisher then reviewed the ads that were shown to the simulated users, the site most strongly associated with the male profiles was a career coaching service for executive positions paying more than USD 200,000.

“The male users were shown the high-paying job ads about 1,800 times, compared to female users who saw those ads about 300 times,” said Amit Datta, a PhD student in electrical and computer engineering.

By comparison, the ads most associated with female profiles were for a generic job posting service and an auto dealer.

Such discrepancies could come from the advertiser or Google’s system selecting to target males, researchers said.

The study was published in the journal Proceedings on Privacy Enhancing Technologies.

Get live Stock Prices from BSE and NSE and latest NAV, portfolio of Mutual Funds, calculate your tax by Income Tax Calculator, know market’s Top Gainers, Top Losers & Best Equity Funds. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Switch to Hindi Edition