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Discussion on: Excluding non-binary people by design: How sign-up forms can lead to discrimination

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filipac profile image
Filip Iulian Pacurar

But in what cases would advertise to non-binary genders help? Like, take example, tampons or absorbents. A business selling this would like to know if you have a menstrual cycle or not, right? It would not be possible to know that from your custom gender you entered.. just thinking out loud.

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fossheim profile image
Sarah Author

This is about letting advertisers exclude non-binary people from housing and job ads. As explained in the article, google doesn't allow excluding people from job, housing or credit ads based on gender, but does let advertisers filter out non-binary people as a result of poorly designed forms and data structures.

And your question is actually a really good point why advertising based on gender, especially when it's very binary, doesn't work well. Trans men and non-binary people can need menstrual products. And trans women may not need them.

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Bill Raymond • Edited on

It’s really important to note that the article is saying Google made a bad design decision that then excludes people based on gender. Maybe or maybe not on purpose, but it appears that it does.

While you went right to tampons, you might consider that there is an opportunity for companies to sell products and services to specific audiences across all markets and not just hygiene products. There are thousands of brands, including banks, clothing designers, the travel industry, and anything in between looking to service a typically underserved market.

As developers, we always have that need to solve for custom fields in our products. Since we don’t know exactly what someone might put there, we let them type whatever they want. After a period of use, you can see patterns and then ponder adjusting your app to support what people hand-type most frequently. For example, Google could probably run a super simple algorithm to learn that NB, N-B, non binary, and Non-binary are all the same thing and simply offer non-binary as an option. Further, anyone in the gender inclusion space can spend about an hour typing up a list for Google to start with.

If that’s not how you identify, don’t select it. If it is, you feel more welcome. Advertisers are eager to reach new customers, so that helps them target typically underserved markets and gain trusted relationships. Also, Google gets itself away from adding custom, hand-typed data to reduce engineering problems and increase profits.

As for Google not allowing advertising for housing and other services that, at least in the US, could be seen as discriminatory, this is something very concerning. I have not investigated it, so only have this article to go by, but if it is the case, then it is worth getting Google to make change, either from within or through support of your elected officials.

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