Airbnb is tapping into its network of travelers to fight inequality and racism. The company recently launched Project Lighthouse, an initiative to uncover, measure and overcome discrimination in booking or hosting a home on the vacation rental’s platform.
The project uses bulk data from customers and hosts to measure perceptions. To protect privacy, the data uses only first names and profile photos to help “understand the perceived race someone might associate with them,” according to an email sent to customers Friday morning.
The project measures perceived and booking acceptance rates to determine gaps among different races.
The project uses information from customer perceptions to understand when and where racial discrimination is occurring on the company’s platform.
The information gathered will help the company create new features and policies to promote racial equality and stamp out discrimination.
The data won’t be tied to a customer’s account. Instead information is gathered in bulk to protect anonymity and gather trends, not identifying information, the company said.
The data won’t be used for marketing or advertising, only for anti-discrimination efforts, they said.
Airbnb consulted with civil rights and privacy advocacy groups to create the project, including Color of Change and Upturn and the Center for Democracy and Technology.
Customers can opt out of the program, but must do so by August 31. After that, customers can still change their mind and opt out at any time.
Airbnb published their methodology online and is offering it publicly for any other company who wishes to deplore similar strategies to identify and reduce discrimination.
The project comes as racial tensions throughout the U.S. are on the rise in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis at the hands of police, which sparked nationwide protests and amplified global conversations about racial injustice and police brutality. The unrest has led to sweeping changes throughout the country including removing confederate monuments and reshaping police policies.