New research indicates government agencies and police forces in the UK have been using hyper-targeted social media adverts to deliver messages about migration, jobs, and crime to minority groups. The research conducted by several universities found that many of the ads are targeted using data linked to protected characteristics such as race, religious beliefs, and sexual orientation, as well as stereotypes about interests and traits. While some of the campaigns appear to have been intended to improve diversity or public health and safety, concerns have been raised about the “invasive” profiling and “some particularly troubling” targeting of minority groups, which is being conducted with little or no oversight. Experts are calling for regulation and greater transparency to prevent the potential abuse of micro-targeting.
Jake Hurfurt, head of research at privacy advocacy group Big Brother Watch, described the targeting as “hugely inappropriate” and said, “the government must be transparent about its use of these intrusive surveillance advertising techniques and halt any targeting of people based on ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation by proxy.”
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