We all know that Google collects data on users in order to deliver targeted advertisements. But, we didn't know the potentially sexist way Google is using that data. A recent study from Carnegie Mellon University and the International Computer Science Institute showed that men are more likely to be shown Google ads for high-paying jobs than women.
Researchers created a tool called AdFisher that sends out automated Internet browsers and then gathers information on how those browsers are treated by ad networks. Each browser is set up so that the ad networks will "infer certain interests or activities," according to MIT Technology Review.
They found that fake Web users believed by Google to be male job seekers were much more likely than equivalent female jobseekers to be shown a pair of ads for high paying executive jobs when they later visited a news website.
That's not all they found. The researchers also took a look at Google's Ad Settings tool. This tool is supposed to let you take a look at the interests Google has inferred based on your activity, but AdFisher found that it doesn't always show all the information that's used to create targeted ad campaigns.
What exactly caused those specific patterns is unclear, because Google’s ad-serving system is very complex. Google uses its data to target ads but ad buyers can make some decisions about demographics of interest and can also use their own data sources on people’s online activity to do additional targeting for certain kinds of ads.