Apple's 'sexist' credit card investigated by U.S. regulator

Daniel Fowler
November 11, 2019

The latest allegations of algorithmic discrimination come from David Heinemeier Hansson, co-founder of Basecamp, who in a series of tweets has said that he received twenty-times the credit limit his wife received when applying for an Apple Card, despite there being no material differences in their credit worthiness.

New York state regulators will "be conducting an investigation to determine whether New York law was violated and ensure all consumers are treated equally regardless of sex", said a spokesman for Linda Lacewell, the superintendent of the New York Department of Financial Services.

Rhodes explained that regulators drew attention to this issue due to a series of posts made over the past few days on social networks by entrepreneur David Heinmeier Hanson, who specialises in technology.

He said that as soon as he raised the issue his wife's credit limit was increased.

New York's Department of Financial Services (DFS) has contacted Goldman Sachs bank, which runs the Apple Card. It became available in the United States in August.

Apple introduced the Apple Card earlier this year in a partnership with Goldman Sachs.

NY law prohibits discrimination against protected classes of individuals, which means an algorithm, as with any other method of determining creditworthiness, can not result in disparate treatment for individuals based on age, creed, race, color, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, or other protected characteristics.

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Hansson, by the way, created the popular Ruby on Rails web framework.

Over the weekend, one of Apple Card's most high-profile users - who also happens to be none other than Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak - took the dramatic step of joining in the calls from critics who want more government oversight over the algorithms used to make decisions about card users. That's despite the fact that the couple shares various bank and credit card accounts and that other lenders more or less treat them the same for credit purposes.

"The same thing happened to us", Wozniak wrote. Hard to get to a human for a correction though.

In addition to Goldman Sachs, Apple partnered with Mastercard on the Apple Card, which the companies hailed as a revolutionary "digital first" credit card that had no numbers and could be added to the Wallet app on the iPhone and used with Apple Pay.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a subsequent tweet, he said that the Apple Card's customer service representatives told his wife that they were not authorized to discuss the credit assessment process. Past due accounts, a checking account closed by a bank for overdrafts, liens and medical debts can negatively affect applications, the page stated.

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