Apple’s ‘sexist’ credit card investigated by US regulator

A US financial regulator has opened an investigation into claims Apple’s credit card offered different credit limits for men and women.

It follows complaints – including from Apple’s co-founder Steve Wozniak – that algorithms used to set limits might be inherently biased against women.

New York’s Department of Financial Services (DFS) has contacted Goldman Sachs, which runs the Apple Card.

Any discrimination, intentional or not, “violates New York law”, the DFS said.

The Bloomberg news agency reported on Saturday that tech entrepreneur David Heinemeier Hansson had complained that the Apple Card gave him 20 times the credit limit that his wife got.

In a tweet, Mr Hansson said the disparity was despite his wife having a better credit score.

Later, Mr Wozniak, who founded Apple with Steve Jobs, tweeted that the same thing happened to him and his wife despite their having no separate bank accounts or separate assets.

 

Banks and other lenders are increasingly using machine-learning technology to cut costs and boost loan applications.

‘Legal violation’

But Mr Hansson, creator of the programming tool Ruby on Rails, said it highlights how algorithms, not just people, can discriminate.

US healthcare giant UnitedHealth Group is being investigated over claims an algorithm favoured white patients over black patients.

Mr Hansson said in a tweet: “Apple Card is a sexist program. It does not matter what the intent of individual Apple reps are, it matters what THE ALGORITHM they’ve placed their complete faith in does. And what it does is discriminate.”

He said that as soon as he raised the issue his wife’s credit limit was increased.

The DFS said in a statement that it “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 violates New York law.”

The BBC has contacted Goldman Sachs for comment.

On Saturday, the investment bank told Bloomberg: “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.”

The Apple Card, launched in August, is Goldman’s first credit card. The Wall Street investment bank has been offering more products to consumers, including personal loans and savings accounts through its Marcus online bank.

The iPhone maker markets Apple Card on its website as a “new kind of credit card, created by Apple, not a bank”.

Facebook and YouTube ban naming alleged Trump impeachment whistleblower

Facebook and YouTube are removing content that potentially names the anonymous whistleblower who sparked a presidential impeachment inquiry, with Facebook saying it violates rules against “coordinating harm” on the platform. The decision follows Facebook’s earlier choice to remove ads featuring the name — which Republican political figures, including Donald Trump, Jr., have publicized on Twitter.

BuzzFeed reported attempts to spread the alleged whistleblower’s name earlier this week, confirming that Facebook would remove ads targeting them. BuzzFeed noted that the person, a former Obama administration staffer and current CIA officer, has been a target for conservative commentators since 2017. But recent articles by the conservative sites Real Clear Investigations and Breitbart raised the officer’s profile, especially after the Breitbart article was shared by Donald Trump, Jr. It’s since cropped up across social media.

Following Facebook’s announcement, YouTube also confirmed to CNN that it would remove content that mentioned the alleged whistleblower’s name in the title, the description, or the video itself. Conversely, a Twitter spokesperson told CNN that tweeting the name didn’t violate its rules.

President Donald Trump has pushed for the release of the whistleblower’s name, but US officials and many media outlets have refrained from printing it. (It’s not clear that the person named in those articles is actually the whistleblower, either.) In a statement, Facebook concurred.

“Any mention of the potential whistleblower’s name violates our coordinating harm policy, which prohibits content ‘outing of witness, informant, or activist.’ We are removing any and all mentions of the potential whistleblower’s name and will revisit this decision should their name be widely published in the media or used by public figures in debate,” said a spokesperson. A search for the name on Facebook found only a handful of results.

Facebook has recently defended taking a hands-off approach to political content, particularly with ads, which CEO Mark Zuckerberg argues should not be fact-checked by Facebook. In this case, though, it’s justifying the decision under policies closer to its anti-harassment rules — at least while the name isn’t widely reported.

Update 5:30PM ET: Added confirmation that YouTube would ban mention of the alleged whistleblower’s name and Twitter would not.

Instagram Will Remove ‘Likes’ From Posts for Some U.S. Users

Facebook Inc.’s Instagram plans to remove the number of “likes” visible on posts for some users in the U.S. to decrease competitive pressure among people on the photo-sharing service.

Instagram has been hiding like counts in some markets since April, beginning in Canada, and later expanding to Japan and Brazil. The U.S. is one of Instagram’s largest markets with more than 106 million users, according to data analyst EMarketer.

“What we’re hoping to do is depressurize Instagram a little bit, and make it a bit less of a competition,” Instagram boss Adam Mosseri told after announcing the new test at a conference in San Francisco sponsored by Wired magazine. “The idea is to try and reduce anxiety and social comparisons, specifically with an eye towards young people.”

Users will still be able to see the likes they receive on their posts if they want, but those metrics won’t be visible to others on Instagram, the company said. Mosseri said the test will begin next week, and will impact just a portion of Instagram’s U.S. user base.

Instagram’s follower counts and likes have made it one of the top places online to compare one’s popularity with others, especially among teens and young adults. The company has tried for years to combat the competitive trend by promoting good role models via posts on its @instagram account, hoping to reflect the parts of the app that are about creativity and art as opposed to self-promotion. Still, striving for the metrics was irresistible for its users, contributing to mental health issues and other ills, like users paying for fake likes and followers from bots.

Even some of the app’s most prolific celebrities have said a service without likes may be healthier for its users.

“It would be really beneficial,” said Kim Kardashian, speaking at the New York Times DealBook conference on Wednesday. Kardashian, who has 151 million Instagram followers and regularly receives more than 1 million likes on her posts, said the Instagram team has been discussing the changes with select users to get feedback, “and that makes me happy.”

Instagram, Facebook and Twitter have been at the center of debate around issues like smartphone addiction and online health in recent years. As a result, product “health” has become a priority at the social-media companies, which are trying to balance the need to drive user growth and engagement with the outside perception that they are contributing to problems such as online bullying.

Instagram, for example, has also announced a feature where users can limit the amount of time they spend on the app in a given day. Apple Inc. built a similar “time spent” feature into its iPhone software, and Google offers tools like this for Android phones. Twitter has a beta version of its main product that hides engagement metrics, including likes and retweets, from user replies and interactions.

Tesla Will Reveal Its ‘Cyberpunk’ Electric Pickup on November 21st

If you’ve been eager to cast your eyes on Tesla’s pickup truck, you won’t have to wait too much longer. CEO Elon Musk says the automaker will reveal its Cybertruck at a Los Angeles event on November 21st.

Musk talked up the truck at Tesla’s annual shareholders’ meeting in June. He suggested that Ford’s F-150, which Musk called a “great truck,” is a bit of a benchmark for Tesla’s own vehicle (Ford’s working on an electric version of that, too).

The Cybertruck has been crafted to “meet or exceed an F-150. If the F-150 can do it then a Tesla truck should be able to do it.” Musk suggested it has a bold “cyberpunk” design, “like it came out of a sci-fi movie.” It seems the rest of us will get to determine whether that’s accurate in a couple of weeks.

Musk also noted the reveal date is “strangely familiar.” The classic cyberpunk movie Blade Runner is set in Los Angeles in November 2019, after all.