As a part of their settlement with the Department of Justice (DOJ), representing the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Meta announced their plan to create the Variance Reduction System (VRS) to help advance the equitable distribution of ads on Meta technologies.
After more than a year of collaboration with the DOJ, they have now launched the VRS in the United States for housing ads. Over the coming year, they will extend its use to US employment and credit ads.
Additionally, they discontinued the use of Special Ad Audiences, an additional commitment in the settlement.
The Variance Reduction System in Action
The VRS uses new machine learning technology in ad delivery so that the actual audience that sees an ad more closely reflects the eligible target audience for that ad.
After the ad has been shown to a large enough group of people, the VRS measures aggregate demographic distribution of those who have seen the ad to understand how that audience compares with the demographic distribution of the eligible target audience selected by the advertiser.
To implement this technology in a way that respects people’s privacy, the VRS relies on a widely used method of measurement called Bayesian Improved Surname Geocoding (BISG) – informed by publicly available US Census statistics – to measure estimated race and ethnicity.
This method is built with added privacy enhancements including differential privacy, a technique that can help protect against re-identification of individuals within aggregated datasets.
Throughout the course of an ad campaign, the VRS will keep measuring the audience’s demographic distribution and continue working to reduce the difference between the audiences.