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Fruits of Credit: Apple's Credit Venture Grows Controversial

Updated: Oct 28, 2020

By: Molly Amick

Claims against Apple for using gender-biased algorithms have grown since the company’s newest feature was accused of giving lower credit card limits to women compared to their husbands despite having matching financial health. Complaints against Apple have been made in response to the differences seen between the credit limits given to men and women.

Are Apple’s inconsistencies in credit allowance between men and women an honest flaw of the new technology, a result of intentionally discriminatory algorithms, or a reflection of users’ credit scores and credit histories?

The discussion started after a man took to Twitter after noticing his wife’s astoundingly lower credit limit. “Entrepreneur David Heinemeier Hansson railed against the Apple Card… [stating that] it gave him 20 times the credit limit his wife received,” said Reuters’ Subrat Patnaik. The article continues to detail another person’s similar experience, in which Patnaik reports: “He got 10 times more credit on the card, compared with his wife” despite the fact that the two of them share the account.

Reports have indicated that the algorithms — formulas for processing information or completing tasks — that make these judgments are programmed by people who may have their own biases. Often these result in unfavorable outcomes for women and people of color. While there have been discrepancies in men and women’s’ Apple Cards, these unfortunate instances are rare. It seems that the algorithms, being a reflection of the humans that help create and develop them, are not free of bias. They have the power to extend the discriminatory views of those involved with the making of Apple’s algorithms for Apple Card.

What does this mean for Apple as a business? Apple seems to be under fire, but the company’s well-timed releases of enticing new products seem to cushion the blows of Twitter outrage and deter the public’s eye from unfolding events.

The Apple credit situations may have had their brief moments of discussion, but which Apple topic is sticking around and truly taking the internet by storm? The iPhone 11.

People have gone to Instagram and Twitter to share their astonishment at the new iPhone’s three camera lenses, appealing colors and improved durability. The phone has made its way into commercials, blog post, and even everyday conversations--but Apple Card isn’t so commonplace yet.

Moving forward, how is the issue to be handled? How should Apple maneuver the concern created by Apple Card? So far, Apple has been quiet in response to claims and upset users. It seems that reprimands are in order, but will they be satisfied? Hansson’s wife’s credit limit was raised to equal his, but Apple hasn’t publicly addressed the gender bias exhibited by the card’s credit limit.

A few instances of credit limit discrepancies appear to be relatively harmless, but it is important that consumers do not avert their eyes from these cases. When so many of our most pedestrian activities (like using a credit card) are made electronic and the algorithms behind them secretly host biases, we find ourselves in danger of disadvantaging certain groups or minorities in society. It is only right that we voice dissatisfaction at these events to ensure corporations are properly held accountable for their biased products or services.

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