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Facebook Launches New Restrictions on Advertisers

Facebook has just revealed new restrictions on advertisers’ ability to personalize content based on “Ethnic Affinity,” following up on promises to address concerns raised by advocates and government officials last year. Facebook’s blog post describes welcome changes, many of which reflect suggestions made by CDT last fall, including plans to leverage technical tools like machine learning.

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Facebook Announces Changes to “Ethnic Affinity” Marketing

This morning, Facebook announced major changes to its “Ethnic Affinity” targeting program. The company will stop allowing advertisers to target ads for offers of housing, employment, or credit using the ethnic affinity marketing categories. This news also demonstrates the value of dialogue and the power of technology to improve the world we live in.

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A Closer Look at the Legality of "Ethnic Affinity"

ProPublica recently published a story criticizing Facebook for providing “Ethnic Affinity” categories among the options available to advertisers targeting ads. In some contexts, it is illegal for the person making the offer to exclude people based on race. While the Fair Housing Act clearly establishes liability for the person who creates and posts the ad, a host of user-generated content like Facebook is likely protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Nevertheless, there are steps Facebook can take to limit the ability of its advertisers to break the law.

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How does the internet know your race?

Your race is among many characteristics that can be inferred and used to serve you personalized content. Recent research by CDT and a team at the University of California Berkeley show that this practice continues to raise concerns with the public. We asked 748 people how they felt about online personalization based on a variety of characteristics, and personalization based on race achieved the most consistently negative results.

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How To Read A Privacy Policy: Advice from CDT Experts

Most of the information about a company’s practices is listed in a privacy policy; these policies are one of the few glimpses we have into what is happening to our personal information. While their usefulness to consumers is limited — research has demonstrated that users are usually overwhelmed by these documents — advocates can use policies to parse what companies are actually doing. CDT’s experts read privacy policies a lot, so we asked them to provide some clarity on what privacy policies actually say, and what to look for.

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With Workplace Privacy, Have a Policy and Follow the Policy

Technology has allowed for more novel and expansive employee surveillance and workplace monitoring. State legislators are looking to formalize and unify the legal landscape of employee privacy. And CDT is working to intervene and create strong privacy-protections for individuals at both the public and corporate level in the increasingly technologically advanced workplace.

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Always On: Table for Tech

The spirited and passionate dialogue among our recent Table for Tech panelists showcases the range of important questions that remain to be answered about food and data. CDT wants to contribute to a process of establishing rules that promote the public good while preserving self-determination about what, where, and with whom individuals eat. We are excited to dig in.

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State Lawmakers Have Options to Protect Your Digital Legacy

As state legislatures prepare for another season, they will be able to choose among several models for updating estate law while preserving users’ control of their digital legacies. CDT played a major role in crafting two of the models that are available this year, and this week the Uniform Law Commission has unveiled a new model that is both privacy protecting and administrable. The updated model makes several meaningful improvements.

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