Apple’s new credit card is under investigation for gender discrimination after complaints from customers including the company’s co-founder Steve Wozniak.
The inventor of Apple’s first computers said he had been offered ten times the credit limit of his wife Janet Hill despite the fact that the couple had “no separate bank or credit card accounts or any separate assets”.
The row was initially sparked after tech entrepreneur David Heinemeier Hansson complained on Twitter that he had been given twenty times the credit limit of his wife when applying for the metal card.
“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 20x the credit limit she does. No appeals work,” the Danish entrepreneur said.
Both men said they had complained to the California company’s customer service representatives to no avail, though Mr Hansson’s wife was offered a higher limit to match his after he posted the viral tweets.
They criticised the company for pointing to opaque “black box” algorithms to explain the decisions.
A New York regulator has now announced an investigation into the decisions, and invited customers who thought they had been discriminated against to get in touch.
Linda A. Lacewell, superintendent of New York State department of financial services, said: “We will work to investigate what may have gone wrong, and if the algorithm used by Apple Card did indeed promote unlawful discrimination we will take appropriate action.”
Apple’s credit card, launched in August in the US, is run in partnership with Wall Street bank Goldman Sachs. It is not yet available in the UK.
A spokesman for Goldman Sachs said: “Our credit decisions are based on a customer’s creditworthiness and not on factors like gender, race, age, sexual orientation or any other basis prohibited by law.”
Technology companies have previously been criticised for relying on artificial intelligence to make decisions without ensuring that the algorithms were not discriminating against certain groups.
Last year Amazon cancelled a recruitment AI project after it discovered it was discriminating against female candidates.