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Apple Card under investigation over alleged gender bias in setting credit limits

The Apple Card, a joint venture between Apple and Goldman Sachs, is under investigation by The New York Department of Financial Services for alleged gender discrimination when it comes to setting credit limits.

The allegations started through tweets by David Heinemeier Hansson, who is behind the popular Ruby on Rails programming tool. Hansson claimed gender bias after he and his wife applied for an Apple Card, with different results.

The @AppleCard is such a fucking sexist program. My wife and I filed joint tax returns, live in a community-property state, and have been married for a long time. Yet Apple’s black box algorithm thinks I deserve 20x the credit limit she does. No appeals work.

— DHH (@dhh) November 7, 2019

Following up on the tweet, Hannson also revealed that even if his wife pays off her limit in full, the Apple Card will not approve any spending until the next billing period. The programmer also called out the card’s customer service department, which could not provide a sufficient explanation as to why there is a massive gap in credit limit between him and his wife.

Hannson’s complaints against the Apple Card have since gone viral. They have even caught the attention of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who apparently had the same experience when he and his wife applied.

The same thing happened to us. I got 10x the credit limit. We have no separate bank or credit card accounts or any separate assets. Hard to get to a human for a correction though. It's big tech in 2019.

— Steve Wozniak (@stevewoz) November 10, 2019

More importantly, the gender discrimination complaint has reached the ears of the authorities, who will be looking into the matter. Discrimination resulting from the use of algorithms by banks and lenders in credit decisions have previously drawn scrutiny in Congress, and this matter with the Apple Card will only widen the spotlight on the issue.

“The department will be conducting an investigation to determine whether New York law was violated and ensure all consumers are treated equally regardless of sex,” a spokesman for Linda Lacewell, the superintendent of the New York Department of Financial Services, told Bloomberg.

“Our credit decisions are based on a customer’s creditworthiness and not on factors like gender, race, age, sexual orientation or any other basis prohibited by law,” said Goldman Sachs spokesman Andrew Williams, in response to the allegations and the investigation.

Hannson said that since he called out the Apple Card for gender bias, his wife’s credit limit was immediately increased without the need to provide additional documentation. “My belief isn’t [that]there was some nefarious person wanting to discriminate. But that doesn’t matter. How do you know there isn’t an issue with the machine-learning algo[rithm] when no one can explain how this decision was made?”

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