Apple’s Response, or Lack Thereof, to Discrimination Allegations

Earlier this year Apple launched its credit card, Apple Card, in partnership with Goldman Sachs and Mastercard. The card application was made available to all United States residents on Aug. 6, 2019, and just three months later is being investigated for discrimination.

Tweet by @dhh reads: The Apple Card is such a 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 20 times the credit limit she does. No appeals work.
A tweet from David Hansson about the incident.

The case started after a tweet from software engineer David Hansson went viral. Thursday, Nov. 7, Hansson tweeted that both he and his wife completed the credit application with the same tax and bank account information but he was offered 20 times more credit than his wife.

Hansson’s thread went on to explain he reached out to Apple support and was told the algorithm could not be biased, however; Hansson’s wife was granted more credit opportunity after the situation was brought to Apple’s attention.

Immediately after Hansson’s tweet, other users commented saying they had the same experience. Apple’s twitter accounts did not have any public interaction with users who responded to Hansson’s tweet.

On Saturday, Nov. 9, the New York Department of Financial Services reported they would be launching an investigation against the card and released a statement stating, “any algorithm that intentionally or not results in discriminatory treatment of women or any other protected class violates New York law.”

On Monday, Nov. 11, four days after Hasson’s popular tweet was posted, Goldman Sachs released a statement on Twitter stating, “We have not and never will make decisions based on factors like gender.” The post continued, “We do not know your gender or marital status during the Apple Card application process.”

Also on Nov. 11, Hansson’s wife Jamie Hansson took to the internet with a blog post explaining her stance on the situation. Jamie Hansson explains she values privacy and transparency above all else, which is why she chose the Apple Card to begin with. She acknowledges Apple’s efforts to increase her credit limit but states that she feels privileged in this fight because she is a “rich white woman.”

On Tuesday, Nov. 12 The Verge published the article “Apple owns every mistake Goldman Sachs makes with this card.” The article points out that on the Apple Card website the top of the page reads, “Created by Apple, not a bank,” yet the Apple support page regarding card policies behind approvals puts all the weight on Goldman Sachs’ shoulders.

Amid these allegations, Apple has remained silent. All reporters have been redirected to Goldman Sachs representatives in the heat of controversy. Neither Apple or Goldman Sachs have overtly stated that any discrimination has occurred.

Apple’s response to this crisis has been clear: deny, deny, deny. Is this the right tactic for the situation? Users signed up for a credit card supposedly “created by Apple” and now they’re being told that it’s actually created by a bank. Apple’s commitment to convenience, being transparent and protecting privacy are all at risk, and the public is losing its faith in the brand.

Rachel Bednarz is a sophomore at Central Michigan University studying integrative public relations and Spanish. She’s the director of member services for CMU’s Chapter of PRSSA, writes for the Chapter blog and the on-campus magazine. Connect with her on Linkedin.



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