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Google’s ad portal had a disturbing bias

The Markup is reporting on Google’s Keyword planner.  The tool, which helps advertisers choose which terms to associate with ads, showed some unsettling results..

The research finds that for many keyword suggestions related to “Black girls,” “Latina girls,” and “Asian Girls”—resulted in the majority of them being pornographic.

Searches in the keyword planner for “boys” of those same ethnicities also primarily returned suggestions related to pornography.

Searches for “White girls” and “White boys,” however, returned no suggested terms at all.

Google has previously looked at this exact same program in its search engine – -and fixed it.   However, the change for the ad portal was not changed until this week.

Why do we care?

This is really insidious difficult bias.   I’m highlighting it because awareness is really important – and it would be easy for this story to get missed.     That’s the first part.

The then larger story is how the bias of algorithms has to be discovered and managed.     The lesson was only learned in one place, and not applied to all places within Google – that’s unsettling.

I’ve talked about working with customers to help understand how their data is being used – this is an example of how that could play out, and something to learn from.  

Source: The Markup