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Professor finds profiling in ads for personal data website

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Dr. Latisha Smith, an expert in decompression sicknesses afflicting deep sea divers, has cleared criminal background checks throughout her medical career. Yet someone searching the Wwb for the Washington State physician might well come across an Internet ad suggesting she may have an arrest record, Reuters reports. “Latisha Smith, arrested?” reads one such advertisement. Instantcheckmate.com, which labels itself the “Internet’s leading authority on background checks,” placed both ads. A statistical analysis of the company’s advertising has found it has disproportionately used ad copy including the word “arrested” for black-identifying names, even when a person has no arrest record. Latanya Sweeney is a Harvard University professor of government with a doctorate in computer science. After learning that her own name had popped up in an “arrested?” ad when a colleague was searching for one of her academic publications, she ran more than 120,000 searches for names primarily given to either black or white children, testing ads delivered for 2,400 real names 50 times each…

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