Goldman Sachs, the banking giant that the Apple Card is available through, has released a statement refuting allegations that its decisions on a customer’s creditworthiness are sexist. The row began after Apple Card user (and Ruby on Rails creator) David Heinemeier Hansson took to Twitter to question why Goldman Sachs gave him an Apple Card credit line that was 20 times that of the credit line his wife got.
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
Shortly after this, Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak also tweeted that his wife’s Apple Card credit limit was 10 times less than his own, even though they share all their financial assets equally.
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
After the tweets went viral, the New York Department of Financial Services, the financial state regulator, said it had begun an investigation into the matter, reports Bloomberg. Linda Lacewell, the regulator’s superintendent told the outlet, “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. Any algorithm, that intentionally or not results in discriminatory treatment of women or any other protected class of people violates New York law.”
And it is likely that, if gender discrimination is occurring on a widespread basis, an algorithm is most likely at fault rather than a human making intentional decisions against applications based on gender on a per-application basis. However, Goldman Sachs probably didn’t do itself any favors when it released a statement via tweet explaining that two people who share assets could still have different credit scores and, thus, access to credit based on a variety of other factors.
Nowhere in the statement did Goldman Sachs mention any possibility that their algorithms might be inadvertently discriminating based on gender. Of course, there’s no firm evidence that its algorithm is doing that—yet, but a brief mention that the company is evaluating its algorithms to check for any inadvertent discrimination would have gone a long way to soothing fears that it’s treating men and women differently when it comes to Apple Card approvals.