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How One Owner Mitigates Facebook Risk

Facebook Risk

Apartment management companies have been the target of groups accusing them of age discrimination when posting ads seeking job candidates on Facebook. Here’s how to mitigate that risk.

WPM Real Estate Management, received a letter from an attorney on behalf of its clients a few months ago accusing his company of discriminating based on age when hiring a maintenance technician said, Leonard Frenkil Jr., CPM, President of Multifamily Real Estate. 

The letter said it identified the alleged violation by clicking on the “Why Am I Seeing This” link that was part of the Facebook ad. The link then claimed that the recipient had been targeted to receive the ad based on the certain demographic profile information about the recipient, and the link implied that the demographic information that the recipient was seeing has been set by WPM.

“That was not true,” Frenkil says. 

Frenkil says that, when constructing an ad, Facebook lets advertisers define the target “Audience” for the ad, and one of the available criteria is age. Once the advertiser’s general criteria have been set, Facebook determines which Facebook members actually will receive the ad, based on Facebook’s knowledge of the personal information and interests of its Facebook users and the types of advertisements that will appeal to those Facebook users.

In WPM’s case, WPM targeted all job seekers over the age of 18 within 25 miles of WPM’s Maryland address. Nonetheless, the demand letter that WPM received contained screen shots of WPM’s Facebook ad showing the person in question was “Seeing This” because they “are in Silver Spring, [Md.] and between the ages of 18-40.” While that may have been true, Facebook reported to its user how WPMs criteria intersected with the ad viewer’s profile – not WPM’s criteria. Evidence was provided and the demand letter was withdrawn.

Employment is a small part of the advertising WPM does on Facebook; the fair housing implication were of much greater concern, so much that WPM’s marketing team now takes screen shots of the “Audience” and “Targeting” settings for archival purposes whenever submitting Facebook ads. “This is to protect WPM and its clients if accused of discrimination since we have no control over what Facebook says to its users,” Frenkil says. 

He says this serves as a “paper trail” much like was the case for apartment listings a few decades ago when most advertising was done in print. “You’d find the printed ad and clip it for your records,” he says.

WPM has a portfolio of 7,000 apartment homes and 12,000 condominium communities, mostly in Maryland and Southern Pennsylvania, with additional pipeline properties in Virginia and the Carolinas.