Giving a bit: charitable fundraising in our digital age

Social media Charities Fundraising Digital footprint Advertising Online privacy
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Giving a bit (report) 510.58 KB

This report finds that donating to charities on social media could be used for discriminatory commercial advertising. Demos found that Facebook’s privacy policy does not separate sensitive data on users’ charitable giving from the data that advertisers have access to through the Facebook Advertising Manager platform. This means information on the charities and causes a Facebook user has donated to, or supported, could be used by advertisers, including insurance companies, to exclude specific audiences from their advertising promotions.

The report, based on interviews with 10 decision-makers and charity employees responsible for fundraising, found that the act of charitable giving is highly personal and often a reflection of a personal cause or concern. An individual donating to a cancer research charity, for example, may have been personally affected by the disease. While no evidence of wrongdoing has been found, according to Demos it would be technically possible for an insurance company to exclude users from their advertising based on data indicating a hereditary illness. 

Facebook does not permit exclusionary advertising based on stated health conditions. However, Demos found that health characteristics could be inferred from the names of charitable causes, and that these causes can currently be excluded in targeting.

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