Barely out of the box, and already causing problems. Photo credit: Brett Jordan http://flic.kr/p/awByzb
Siri can find you Viagra, hook you up with a prostitute, help you find a place to dump a dead body (“Swamps? Metal foundries?”), but she can’t find you an abortion clinic.
That’s right – Apple’s latest cool technology, Siri, the virtual assistant that ships with the iPhone 4S, is evidently unable to retrieve information about abortion clinics or women’s health services in some areas. Apple has acknowledged that Siri has a problem, but claims that the service’s oversight is just a glitch and not an intentional omission.
“Our customers want to use Siri to find out all types of information, and while it can find a lot, it doesn’t always find what you want,” Natalie Kerris, a spokeswoman for Apple, told The New York Times’s Bits blog late Wednesday. “These are not intentional omissions meant to offend anyone. It simply means that as we bring Siri from beta to a final product, we find places where we can do better, and we will in the coming weeks.”
But does anyone believer her?
Siri can’t help you. Bloggers this week reported that when asked to locate abortion clinics in the city of Manhattan, Siri responded that she couldn’t find any – despite the fact that at least seven pop on a Google search, the search engine that Siri bases her responses from, Jesus Diaz reported at Gizmodo. Or is she does find you an abortion clinic, it’s 26 miles away or it’s a “crisis pregnancy center”, a place that counsels specifically and often graphically against abortion. Ask her for emergency contraception, you get a definition, not a place that will provide it. Ask for birth control, Siri seems unable to even figure out what that is. “The women who are reporting this think it clearly shows that there’s something in Siri’s programming that is against abortion and day-after contraception. Looking at the evidence, it’s hard not to believe they are right.”
What Siri can find: Strip clubs, breast implants, and escort services.
Apple pushing an agenda? It wouldn’t be the first time, Slate reported: Apple, after all, banned several apps from the App Store for appealing too much to the prurient interest (read: boobies). Interestingly, Apple also banned an app that promised to “cure” homosexuality, though that was only after it had first been pre-approved and 150,000 people signed a petition demanding that the “hateful and bigoted” app be removed; additionally, Apple refused to allow an app that promoted single-payer healthcare. So whatever Apple’s politics are, they’re not terribly clear.
Pro-choice campaigners angry. Or at least questioning. NARAL Pro-Choice, one of America’s leading pro-choice advocates, sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook on Wednesday registering its concern that Siri was not providing accurate information on abortion and women’s reproductive health services and was even directing some users to anti-choice “crisis pregnancy centers”. The American Civil Liberties Unions was similarly concerned.