Nov 14, 2019 - Technology

Apple's secretive financial services

A illustration of the Apple Card.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Apple Card is facing accusations of sexism based on anecdotal evidence from David and Jamie Heinemeier Hansson, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, and countless other individuals on Twitter.

Where it stands: They allege that that wives were given lower credit limits than their husbands, even when they had the same income and even when the wife had a higher credit score.

  • That wouldn't be surprising, given that the underwriting algorithm was almost certainly written by men who may garner unconscious biases. While such biases can't be overcome or eradicated, but they can be identified and addressed early on in the development process.
  • As seen in auto insurance, discrimination against women is not hard to find in financial services.
  • New York's Department of Financial Services is now investigating the issue, which has already provided grist for Sen. Elizabeth Warren on the campaign trail.

The other side: Goldman Sachs, which runs the underwriting and issues the credit for the Apple Card, told Axios' Dan Primack yesterday that the consulting firm Charles River Associates (CRA) signed off on the card even before it was launched. CRA certified that there was no “unintended bias coming out of the decision engine,” according to Goldman’s consumer bank CEO Carey Halio.

  • CRA has not responded to a request for comment.

The big picture: Wall Street in general, and Goldman Sachs in particular, is notoriously secretive when it comes to proprietary algorithms. But Apple, if anything, is even more secretive.

"It’s unaccountable and opaque, and Apple doesn’t really care. We should demand that they do better than that. We should demand accountability on the part of anybody who’s using an algorithm like that."
— Data scientist Cathy O'Neil, talking to Slate's Aaron Mak

Go deeper: Dan's podcast with David Heinemeier Hansson is excellent. Also worth reading: Dieter Bohn's essay at The Verge on how "Apple owns every mistake Goldman Sachs makes with its card."

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