A rose by any other name would smell as sweet is a popular reference to William Shakespeares play Romeo and Juliet. Contrary to the Shakespearean belief that a name is just a label to distinguish one thing to the next, there is more to a name than what meets the eye. Like all things, not all names are created equal, and they influence the way we are perceived and labeled. Studies in social discrimination suggest that names that are identifiable as black names send signals regarding a persons social status.
For example, Latanya Sweeney found a particularly interesting discrepancy in Google ads for Instant Checkmate, a company that sells public records. Sweeny (1998) found, Google’s advertising technology exposes racial bias in society and how ad and search technology can develop to assure racial fairness.(p.1); this leads to bad implications about the company that generates these ads. This leads to the further examination of the algorithms used as well as how they react to certain names and how companies include racial bias in their products (Sweeny,2005).
Algorithms such as the one used by Checkmate can greatly affect potential, well-qualified candidates that apply for jobs. The advantages of making a search engine query for a potential candidate are that it can tell you more about a candidate that an interview will since often job candidates prepare for any potential questions that can be asked and are often answered by a rehearsed response.
The Civil Rights Acts of 1964 was pivotal, it prohibited employers from prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or nationality.
In addition, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued an Enforcement Guidance for Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that made changes to the policies which regarded discrimination based on a prior criminal conviction. However, Title VII does not prohibit the employing company to obtain a criminal background check should the employer choose to require it. That is until the employer uses the potential employees information pertaining to their criminal background to make a decision that disqualifies the candidate solely on the information found. In that case, the employer may be at risk for discrimination and be held liable for disparate treatment.
Further, it is important to examine how these ads generated on the search engine Google can identify and predict with great accuracy the race of individuals given their name. A significant difference in naming patterns for Blacks and Whites is the usage of unique or nearly unique names in the Black community (Levitt, 2004). For example, it is a common stereotype to associate names such as Jamal, Daquan, and Lakisha to be a Black name. Similar to how Kyle, Wyatt, and Holly are names that are associated with White people. Given these names are racially inclined there is evidence to suggest that White names are far more frequently used as opposed to those in the Black community as seen in Figure 4a.