Tweet from angry Apple Card user prompts investigation into Goldman Sachs

11 Nov 2019

Image: © Pixelkorn /

After a tech entrepreneur voiced his frustration with Apple Card’s potentially discriminatory algorithm, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak shared similar concerns.

Last week, David Heinemeier Hansson, the creator of Ruby on Rails and CTO of software development firm Basecamp, voiced his frustration with the algorithms used to determine the Apple Card’s credit limits.

Noticing a discrepancy between the credit limit he was offered and the credit limit offered to his wife, the tech entrepreneur tweeted: “The Apple Card 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 20 [times] the credit limit she does. No appeals work.”

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak responded to Heinemeier Hansson’s tweet, saying: “The same thing happened to us. I got 10 [times] the credit limit. We have no separate bank or credit card accounts or any separate assets. Hard to get a human for a correction though. It’s big tech in 2019.”

Over the weekend, the Basecamp CTO’s tweet was retweeted more than 7,000 times and received 22,000 likes.

The Apple Card was co-developed with Mastercard and Goldman Sachs. Before the card was released in the US earlier this year, Apple said that Goldman Sachs would not have the ability to track user spending or see where Apple customers are shopping.

The investigation

The attention that the complaint has received caused concern on Wall Street, where Linda Lacewell, superintendent of the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS), announced the department’s plans to launch an investigation into Goldman Sachs.

Lacewell said: “The department will be conducting an investigation to determine whether New York law was violated and ensure all consumers are treated equally regardless of sex.

“Any algorithm that, intentionally or not, results in discriminatory treatment of women or any other protected class of people violates New York law.”

Andrew Williams, spokesperson for Goldman Sachs, said: “We have not and will not make decisions based on factors like gender.”

In response to the investigation, Heinemeier Hansson said: “I have full faith that NYFDS will see right through this smokescreen. Avoid getting sucked into rationalisations of a status quo regime of discrimination and secrecy. Zoom out to the bigger picture: we need fair, transparent credit assessments!”

The entrepreneur also called Apple “cowardly” for not responding to the incident, while Goldman Sachs did.

Heinemeier Hansson added: “Please stop with the ‘This is Goldman’s fault!’ shit. The card is called the Apple Card. Sending out Goldman Sachs spokespeople to deflect on their responsibility and ownership is cowardly. Do better.”

This is the second probe that the NYDFS has launched into a black-box algorithm within a matter of weeks.

The first investigation was launched into US healthcare giant UnitedHealth Group. That investigation was prompted after a study found that an algorithm discriminated against black patients.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic