Digitally paying for purchases is common for tech-savvy individuals and the fuss-free method means it’s becoming increasingly rare to find someone paying with cash. So, while it already has the widely used digital wallet Apple Pay, the overachievers at Apple have now created a physical card called, er, Apple Card.
Linked to an app and associated with Goldman Sachs, Apple Card gives the user feedback about their spending habits, tracks purchases and is linked to a cashback reward service. Everything was going swimmingly until a Twitter thread pointed out that some men are being given a higher credit limit than women, and not just by a few dollars, oh no – some were receiving more than twenty times their spouse’s limit.
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
Unfortunately for Apple, two of those claims came from sources close to home – programmer David Heinemeier Hansson and original Apple founder Steve Wozniak – whose spouses had experienced the bias themselves. Hansson took to Twitter to express his outrage in a sarcasm-filled tweet reading “I mean, can you really trust women with a credit card these days?!”. The real kicker is, his wife actually has a higher credit score than he does, meaning, if anything, this should have been the other way around.
Not only are women being given less, but they are also being seen as high risk, as Apple Card won’t approve further spending until the next billing period even if you’ve already payed off your limit – you know, because women are just so unreliable with money. Apple founder Wozniak replied to David’s tweets by sharing how he’s facing the same issue and received ten times the credit limit as his wife.
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
As you can imagine, the tweets quickly went viral with thousands of men and women sharing their thoughts about the sexist technology and calling for it to be dealt with immediately. The New York Department of Financial Services is now investigating the problem to ensure equal treatment of their customers and determine whether New York law was violated – which could be the case if discriminatory treatment of women is found. The discrimination is also gaining attention from politicians, namely Senator Elizabeth Warren, who said that the government has to take action to ensure innovation and anti-discrimination laws are keeping up with one another.
So nobody understands THE ALGORITHM. Nobody has the power to examine or check THE ALGORITHM. Yet everyone we’ve talked to from both Apple and GS are SO SURE that THE ALGORITHM isn’t biased and discriminating in any way. That’s some grade-A management of cognitive dissonance.— DHH (@dhh) November 8, 2019
So, who let this happen? At the root of the evil is an apparently sexist algorithm that nobody can understand or overrule, and that means trouble for both Apple and Goldman Sachs if they don’t figure out a solution before twitter eats them alive. Goldman Sachs does not base their customer's creditworthiness on gender, but the decision-making algorithm may be overruling their methods, and it seems nobody understands how it works nor has the power to fix it. And, while it’s obviously not the intent to discriminate based on gender or any other factor, it has become the unfortunate outcome of global digitalisation and is proof that sometimes humans just do it better.
Photos: Unplash and Twitter