- Siri, the iPhone's digital assistant, can't direct users to abortion clinics
- The phone can field more specific requests, such as directions to Planned Parenthood
- Spokeswoman says Apple is working to fix the glitch and that the product is in beta
- The American Civil Liberties Union starts an online petition to raise complaints with Apple
Siri can help you find drugstores and bars, but the iPhone 4S digital assistant is clueless when it comes to the locations of abortion clinics, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
The advocacy group this week launched an online petition asking people to send e-mails to Apple saying that "if Siri can tell us about Viagra, it should not provide bad or no information about contraceptives or abortion care. Send a message to Apple: Fix Siri."
"Although it isn't clear that Apple is intentionally trying to promote an anti-choice agenda, it is distressing that Siri can point you to Viagra, but not the Pill, or help you find an escort, but not an abortion clinic," the group wrote in a blog post Wednesday. "We're confident that the developers at Apple want to provide iPhone users with accurate information."
Apple said Thursday the omission was not intentional:
"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," Apple spokeswoman Natalie Harrison said. "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."
In an informal test by CNN, Siri was able to provide some information about reproductive health services, including where you can buy a condom, but she still could not answer the question, "Where can I get an abortion?"
The digital assistant's reply: "Sorry, I couldn't find any abortion clinics."
When asked about Planned Parenthood, a group that provides reproductive health services, including abortions, Siri was able to locate a nearby clinic.
Similarly, when asked where you could buy a condom, Siri recommended nearby drugstores.
The virtual assistant was unable to decipher a request for the "morning-after pill."
The Siri abortion questions started to become a point of online conversation this week, with bloggers raising the point that Siri was unable to locate abortion clinics.
"If abortion information is plentifully available on the interwebs, and Siri is pulling those types of requests from the Web, why does Siri not have an answer about birth control or abortion?" one blogger wrote on a site called The Abortioneers.
On a blog called Raw Story, Megan Carpentier wrote:
"In New York City, Siri doesn't know what Plan B is and, asked for emergency contraception, offers up a Google results page of definitions."
Siri pulls from other Internet services to answer questions from iPhone owners.
For small business listings, such as abortion clinics, the voice-controlled assistant searches Yelp. It looks to Google for information that would be contained in standard Web searches.