Nov 14, 2019

Apple's secretive financial services

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."

Go deeper

Apple sues former employee over new chip venture

A picture of Apple Park, Apple's "spaceship" campus in Cupertino. Photo: Ina Fried

Apple is suing a former employee who started Nuvia, a server chip startup that has hired at least 8 former Apple workers.

Why it matters: The suit is already bringing forth unusual disclosures from inside the secretive tech giant, including allegations Apple illegally searched its former employees' private text messages.

Go deeperArrowDec 10, 2019

The states having the most trouble with credit card debt

Reproduced from CreditCards.com; Table: Axios Visuals

Americans living in Southern states will have the hardest time getting out of credit card debt, according to a CreditCards.com report that compares credit card debts and household incomes.

The state of play: Nine of the 10 highest credit card debt burdens are in the South, though New Mexico holds the top spot.

Go deeperArrowDec 4, 2019

Apple "research" app brings health data to the upscale masses

There are three longitudinal studies on the Apple Research app. Photo: Apple

Apple released on Thursday an app for iPhone and Apple Watch users to participate in three longitudinal health data studies.

The big picture: Apple is just one of several Silicon Valley companies investing in health tech and transforming the future use of health data. Clinical trials via phone could increase participation rates, compared to traditional in-person studies.

Go deeperArrowNov 15, 2019