Google announced this month that it will begin implementing changes to audience targeting options in the housing, employment and credit sectors, by the end of 2020. The updates, which were developed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, are aimed at eliminating the possibility for discrimination against users.

Google says the new policy will prohibit advertisers in these segments from “targeting or excluding ads based on gender, age, parental status, marital status, or ZIP Code, in addition to our longstanding policies prohibiting personalization based on sensitive categories like race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, national origin or disability.” If you’re advertising on Facebook, you’ve seen this before, in the form of the “special ad categories” that were introduced in 2019.

Do the advertising platforms really need to restrict options for real estate advertisers, or should they trust them to stay within anti-discrimination laws under the Fair Housing Act?

Though some will argue that the restrictions on Facebook and Google go too far, it’s also true that they’ll prevent advertisers who aren’t following FHA guidelines from getting a leg up on those who are and they’ll eliminate any potential confusion about which criteria are ok to use. For their part, advertisers will need to be smart about using available targeting and may start relying more heavily on audience sources outside of Google, such as remarketing lists.

No specific date has been set for the switch and we can expect to see it roll out before the end of the year.