Facebook allows employers – including federal, provincial and municipal governments – to publish business ads targeting future employees in a way that some experts say could violate the Canadian human rights law, reports CBC News.
Research by CBC Newsa revealed that dozens of employers across Canada were announcing targeted advertising in specific age groups.
Although the texts of the ads themselves do not mention the age, settings that determine who sees ads often exclude older workers. This could mean, for example, that those older than 45 or 50 would not see a job ad for which they could qualify.
A smaller number of ads was targeted at women or men.
Facebook has recently announced that it will banned employers in the US from the end of the year to exclude workers from seeing job ads on Facebook by criteria such as age or gender to address legal cases filed against it by groups of civil liberties.
However, Facebook spokesman Alex Kucharski said the change would only apply in the United States.
"We will be looking for any advertiser who offers housing, employment, and loans to reach people in the United States in order to meet these new requirements. No matter what country they are," he said.
"We will investigate the expansion of these requirements globally in the future."
The non-discrimination policy published on Facebook's website says that "Ads must not discriminate or encourage people's discrimination based on personal attributes such as race, ethnicity, color, national origin, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, family status , disability, medical or genetic condition. "
If it has ever been challenged, Facebook and the companies that put these ads on will have a difficult explanation.– A lawyer for employment Paul Champ
However, a review of 264 ads on Facebook by CBC Newsa has found job ads that exclude some Canadian workers.
According to federal and provincial human rights law in Canada, employers are not allowed to limit who sees business listings based on age, gender, race, or religion unless the restriction is a bona fide occupation requirement or is part of a particular initiative, such as a student summer employment program.
An employer can legally restrict contact with adults by targeting people over the age of 18, but can not legally target people who are 18 to 40 years of age, and do not show interest.
Using the collection of ads developed by the US research journalist ProPublic, CBC News has been able to identify nearly 100 Canadian employers who have been running Facebook business listings since November 2017 and only employees in a given age range. Ads that recently appeared on a Facebook account whose profile was set to 34 years ago were also collected.
(Identified ads represent a fraction of the number of job ads that were running in Canada this time, since the ProPublic collector collects only ads submitted by employers who signed up to download the browser extension.)
Out of more than 260 job classified ads, it is estimated that 60 percent was targeted at people in certain age groups in a manner that might be in contravention of the human rights law unless the employer can prove that the restriction was legitimate.
Ten ads were also targeted at women, while six men.
Recruitment Attorneys Paul Champ and Janice Payne reviewed the job listings data that was collected by the CBC. They said many ads violated Canadian human rights law.
"Many of them were discouraging, saying 18 years and older, which was fine, but the others you saw … discriminated against older workers," Champ said.
"In my opinion, if it is ever questioned, Facebook and the companies that are advertising these ads will hardly explain themselves."
Kucharski said that advertisers sometimes create ad campaigns so different age groups see different ads, while the entire campaign includes all age groups.
A number of employers contacted by CBC News said that their targeted job listings on Facebook were part of larger campaigns that workers could see outside the targeted range.
Payne said he did not actually "solve the problem".
"It's still a problematic practice of microcredit for a particular age group or a specific sex," she said.
Government agencies also target age groups
David Soberman teaches marketing at the University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management. He said Facebook's ability to target a microcomputered platform for traders.
"With this targeting type, you can really zero on people," he said.
While governments in charge of implementing federal and provincial human rights laws, CBC News has determined that government agencies and institutions are also targeting age-based job ads.
Canadian Coast Guard launches age-targeted ads in search of post-secondary students for their environmental protection program and fields such as search and rescue.
"For this ad, the Coast Guard was focused on the demographic population aged 25 to 44 in Canada, 71 percent of the users of this group are on Facebook, and this ad reaches 96 percent of this group," Barre Campbell spokeswoman Barre Campbell wrote.
When Electoral Canada in October last year asked for a return officer to Scarborough Southwest, she targeted her Facebook ads to people aged 35 and over in Toronto who were interested in higher education.
Ghislain Desjardins, Canada's Spokeswoman, said he used similar information on targeting 25 returnee jobs.
"Based on conversations we've been with clients, returnees are mostly retired or professionals / contractors. Tasks require experience in many areas where people under the age of 35 do not necessarily need the necessary qualifications."
Three of the 25 officers who returned were younger than 35.
The Department of Health Care and Social Care Yukon has been running Facebook ads for 21-35 year-olds and physiotherapists who targeted 22-49 years of age.
This changed instantly when CBC News contacted the Ad Division.
"We have limited our potential employees to see our Canadian job advertisements," said spokeswoman Yukon's Health and Social Services Roni-Sue Sparvier. "We changed the age range and opened it at the age of 18 to 65 in Canada."
The fire escape service in Edmonton also said that Facebook's ad in May 2018 targeted men at the age of 18 to 44 was a mistake.
"Our intention was to focus on men and women in the 2018 Facebook ads for Edmonton Fire Rescue Services," said spokeswoman Carol Hurst. "Unfortunately, we were not aware of the ad mistake when it came out and disappointed when we found out about it."
Hurst said there is no demand for work to set the upper limit for the age limit for ads to 44 years.
Hurst said that Facebook ads for 2019 are intended for men and women, and the service is actively trying to recruit women.
The Edmonton police service announced a recruitment advertisement for men aged 18 to 35 last August. Spokesperson Cheryl Voordenhout said the service runs separate ads targeting men and women.
"We shared our ads alike between men and women because we actually found that ads did not serve men more often because of the way Facebook's algorithm works. Ad division actually creates a fairer distribution."
Voordenhout said that the average age of recruits is between 25 and 30. "In order to make the most of our limited advertising budget, our advertising campaign focuses on the age group most interested in signing in."
The Seneca Faculty also listed budget reasons for its bid to target ads for teachers in Ontario aged 25 to 55.
"Based on budget constraints, since the cost of Facebook ads is calculated per click, the age range was chosen to search for qualified candidates for filling in teaching positions," said spokeswoman Amar Shah. "We also published it through organic social media, which were not targeted."
Science North, which targeted an ad for the initiative of educating a strategic advisor in May last year to people in Sudbury, Ont. at the ages of 28 to 55, they said the ad was part of a larger, non-commercial advertising.
Nick Ayre, director of talent management, blamed Facebook for the targeted range of years, saying that his system will not accept the ad without a targeted range of years.
Facebook ad manager requires that the advertiser chooses a certain range of years, which can range from 13 to 65 years.
The Ottawa National Art Center (NAC) announced in January an ad for French Communications Officer targeting people in Ottawa for interest in music aged 20 or over, and another ad in August last year for people at Ottawa at the age of 18 up to 55 years for 20 jobs.
Annabelle Cloutier, spokeswoman for NAC, said the August ad was wrong.
"The targeting age for posting about 20 positions was applied to the default settings via Facebook app based on the settings from the previous unconnected post," she said. "When we realized that, publishing has already begun. Our intention was not to narrow down or target a particular age group."
The second ad is set to 20 years and older because NAC is looking for someone with a university degree and five to eight years of experience, she said.
The list of employers microtargeting job listings by age also includes corporate giants from the household name.
In October of last year, Ikea published an ad for Call Center Operator, targeting people aged 18 to 40 in Montreal who speak English.
Spokesperson Stephanie Harnett said Ike's job listings were designed to attract as wide a public as possible, and Facebook ad was just one aspect of her campaign.
"Our goal with employment campaigns is always to build a balanced and diverse workforce. Micro-targeting on Facebook in the defined age range was a shameful oversight and we have taken steps to ensure it does not repeat it."
One Canadian tire ad was intended for people aged 18 to 49 in Toronto for seasonal jobs, while others targeted men at the age of 18 to 49 for seasonal storage positions.
Spokeswoman Cathy Kurzbock said the ads were targeted both on men and women at the same time, and they also worked on Indeed and LinkedIn, where they could access them by searching the keywords. The age for ads on Facebook is set to "based on the minimum age for publishing jobs, and also for those we think are most likely to click on an ad."
Payne said she would like to see the Canadian Human Rights Commission "try to take steps under the human rights law or other legislation such as the privacy law to resolve this issue."
Champ said that if companies are not ready to act, governments should do it.
"I think there is a wider problem … about social media companies that come up with all these different ways of data collection and microtributing their advertising," he said.
"At the moment, it does not look like these companies really think about it. They just think about it" Is it profitable. "
Elizabeth Thompson can be found at [email protected]