According to several Silicon Valley watch dogs, tech giant Apple’s new credit card, backed by Goldman Sachs, is sexist and the conspiracy goes to the highest levels of the American banking system. How can a credit card be sexist, you ask? Let us turn to David Heinemeier Hansson, the CTO of software company Basecamp and founder of Ruby on Rails.
(Warning: Hansson – up in arms about this great scandal – uses a great deal of graphic language).
“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,” he said. “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??!”
Hansson is really bent out of shape over this. He continued:
And continued, invoking the word “mansplaining” to prove that he is a true ally of the fairer sex:
There were about 10 more tweets in the thread, which went on for a period of days, after the one above. Apparently this is one very sexist credit card. Hansson’s thread made such a splash that Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak chimed in.
“The same thing happened to us. We have no separate bank accounts or credit cards or assets of any kind. We both have the same high limits on our cards, including our AmEx Centurion card. But 10x on the Apple Card,” he said.
Ouch. Not a good look for Apple. Sexist credit cards, a high-profile tech guy complaining, and Apple’s own co-founder trashing the company’s new product.
But in reality, Apple simply designed the product. The financial aspect of it is handled by Wall Street titan Goldman Sachs. Goldman made two separate statements on Twitter.
“We wanted to address some recent questions regarding the #AppleCard credit decision process,” the company said in a tweet two days after Hansson’s thread went viral.
“We wanted to address some recent questions regarding the Apple Card-credit decision process,” the statement said. “With Apple Card, you account is individual to you; you credit line is yours and you establish your own direct credit history. Customers do not share a credit line under the account of a family member or another person by getting a supplemental card.”
The bank then explained that, as with any credit card, applicants are evaluated on an individual basis based on credit history.
But that explanation didn’t fly. It failed to address the core questions posed by Hansson and Wozniak.
“I think, ‘we don’t believe there is discrimination in our algorithm, but we will investigate this serious matter’ would serve you better than pushing this horse uphill behind a cart-type tweet,” one Twitter user responded.
So, Goldman Sachs tried again the next day.
“We hear you #AppleCard,” the bank said, seemingly annoyed.
“We have not and never will make decisions based on factors like gender,” the statement said. “In fact, we do not know your gender or marital status during the Apple Card application process. We are committed to ensuring our credit decision process is fair. Together with a third part, we reviewed our credit decisioning process to guard against unintended biases and outcomes.”
The bank explained that lower credit lines for female applicants could have been due to some female applicants having supplemental credit cards “under their spouse’s primary account – which may result in the applicant having limited personal credit history.”
Sounds reasonable, right? Wrong.
Now, the government is getting involved. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) is launching a full-blown investigation into this national crisis.
“The risks of unaccountable, black-box algorithms shouldn’t be underestimated. As companies increasingly rely on algorithms to handle life-changing decisions and outcomes, federal regulators must do their part to stamp out discrimination before it’s written into code,” he said on Twitter. “I’m investigating whether these allegations are true. If they are, I expect Apple and Goldman Sachs to do everything in their power to put an end to discrimination.”
This story continues to develop. Check back with loomered.com for updates.