“Most names generated ads for public records. However, black-identifying names turned out to be much more likely than white-identifying names to generate ads that including [sic] the word 'arrest' (60 per cent versus 48 per cent). All came from www.instantcheckmate.com," says the study, as reported in the Wall Street Journal.
Sweeney concluded that there was a less than 1 percent chance that this was all by accident.
"There is discrimination in the delivery of these ads," Sweeney told BBC News. “Alongside news stories about high school athletes and children can be ads bearing the child's name and suggesting arrest. This seems concerning on many levels.”
The ads show up on Google’s pages and other websites, such as Reuters, which allow ads from Google to appear next to search results.
“You could be in competition for an award, a scholarship, a new job,” Sweeney tells the Boston Globe. “You could be in a position of trust, like a professor, a judge. Having ads that show up suggestive of arrest, may actually discount your ability to function.”
Google has denied the racism claims. The company issued a statement about AdWords, the service that allows businesses to pay in order to have their ads appear with results when certain keywords are searched.
“We also have an 'anti' and violence policy which states that we will not allow ads that advocate against an organization, person or group of people," says Google, according to BBC News. “It is up to individual advertisers to decide which keywords they want to choose to trigger their ads."