David Heinemeier Hansson, the creator of Ruby on Rails, took to Twitter on Thursday claiming that the algorithms assessing applicants’ creditworthiness for Apple and Goldman’s bougie new credit card discriminated against his wife because of her gender. New York state regulators have opened up a probe. Full cavity searches all around.
Despite a lower credit score (and having filed taxes jointly), Hansson’s credit limit was 20x that of his wife’s after both applied for the Apple-Goldman card. Hansson wrote the 2019 equivalent of a strongly worded letter (read: a tweet) airing his grievances …
And someone was listening
The now-viral tweets got the attention not only of regulators but garnered support from at least one tech billionaire stuck in the shadow of his deified co-founder. That’s right Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak replied to Hansson claiming that his own wife suffered similar discrimination and called for the government to intervene.
And intervene they did. Wall Street regulator, the New York Department of Financial Services, launched a probe on Saturday. This is far from the first time that Uncle Sam has kicked the tires on algorithmic discrimination. In June the House Financial Services Committee spoke to researchers about these biased “black boxes.”
The bottom line…
Remarkably, soon after Hansson’s tweets, his wife’s credit limit was bumped to match his. A modern-day miracle!
This is the second time that algorithms have garnered the attention of the NY DFS in recent weeks. A probe seeking information from UnitedHealthCare is investigating if an algorithm favored white patients over black patients. Put simply: don’t bet on the scrutiny subsiding any time soon.
Bottom line: “I see a Congressional hearing in Tim Cook and David Solomon’s future.”