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Goldman Sachs is being investigated by regulators over alleged gender discrimination involving the Apple Card.
Goldman Sachs is being investigated by regulators over alleged gender discrimination involving the Apple Card.

Image: afael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

ByMatt Binder

Apple’s tech-oriented credit card is at the heart of a new investigation into alleged gender discrimination.

New York state regulators haveannouncedan investigation into Goldman Sachs, the bank that issues theApple Card, after a series of viral tweets from a consumer who shared the vastly different credit limits that were issued to him and his wife when they both applied for the card.

“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,” said a spokesman for the New York Department of Financial Services in a statement provided toBloomberg.

On Thursday, David Heinemeier Hansson, a programmer who created the web application framework Ruby on Rails, posted a lengthy tweet thread explaining how both he and his wife applied for the Apple Card. Despite having the same financials, Hansson said his wife was issued a much smaller line of credit than he was.

I’m surprised that they even let her apply for a card without the signed approval of her spouse? I mean, can you really trust women with a credit card these days??!

— DHH (@dhh)November 7, 2019

“My wife and I filed joint tax returns, live in a community-property state, and have been married for a long time,” Hansson tweeted. “Yet Apple’s black box algorithm thinks I deserve 20x the credit limit she does.”

After his complaints on Twitter, Hansson found his wife’s Apple Card’s credit limit was increased to match his.

However, Hansson’s frustration was not only with the credit line issue, but also how customer support is trained to handle the accusation of gender bias: blame the algorithm. 

She spoke to two Apple reps. Both very nice, courteous people representing an utterly broken and reprehensible system. The first person was like “I don’t know why, but I swear we’re not discriminating, IT’S JUST THE ALGORITHM”. I shit you not. “IT’S JUST THE ALGORITHM!”.

— DHH (@dhh)November 8, 2019

“She spoke to two Apple reps. Both very nice, courteous people representing an utterly broken and reprehensible system,” he tweeted. “The first person was like “I don’t know why, but I swear we’re not discriminating, IT’S JUST THE ALGORITHM.”

As everyone should know, computers are not sentient (yet). People created the algorithm, meaning any inherent bias was created by people.

Just read this thread. My wife has a way better score than me, almost 850, has a higher salary and was given a credit limit 1/3 of mine. We had joked that maybe Apple is just sexist. Seems like it’s not a joke. Beyond f’ed up.

— Carmine Granucci (@whoiscarmine)November 9, 2019

Same here my wife is a doctor, I haven’t worked in 5 years and my credit limit is $20,000 her is $4,800. She wanted to surprise me with the new Apple Watch and phone for both of us, price tag came out to $5,200. She had to put the rest on our AMX.

— shareProud (@shareproud)November 9, 2019

Hansson’s viral tweets sparked a discussion around credit card algorithms and gender bias with many other Apple Card holders sharing similar experiences, including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.

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

“The same thing happened to us,” tweeted Wozniak. “I got 10x the credit limit. We have no separate bank or credit card accounts or any separate assets.”

“Any algorithm, that intentionally or not results in discriminatory treatment of women or any other protected class of people violates New York law,” said the New York Department of Financial Services spokesperson.

The Apple Card is issued by Goldman Sachs as the investment bank’s first credit card in its recent foray into consumer banking.

 

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