The New York State Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) is investigating Apple’s new credit card after reports surfaced that the card’s algorithm discriminates against women. The card, which launched in August, is a joint venture between Apple and investment bank Goldman Sachs.
Customers, such as software developer David Heinemeier Hansson, took to Twitter to complain the credit line offered by his Apple Card was 20 times higher than what was offered to his spouse. Hansson also said he and his wife file joint tax returns and he has a lower credit score than his wife.
- "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 NYDFS told Bloomberg. "Any algorithm, that intentionally or not results in discriminatory treatment of women or any other protected class of people violates New York law."
The Apple Card is the latest product or service to come under fire for using what some have labeled a "black box" model, where those who operate — or create — the system can't adequately explain or verify what they do.
"Goldman and Apple are delegating credit assessment to a black box. It’s not a gender-discrimination intent but it is a gender-discrimination outcome,” Hansson told Bloomberg.
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak also weighed in on the issue, sharing on Twitter how he was given 10 times the credit limit that was offered to his wife, even though they share all assets and accounts.
"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," Goldman Sachs spokesman Andrew Williams told MarketWatch.
Lawmakers in Washington are also paying attention to how algorithms used by lenders can lead to discrimination.
The House Financial Services Committee held a hearing in June about how researchers found some instances of bias in the use of artificial intelligence in the financial services industry.