Siri, Apple’s voice-controlled artificial intelligence app on the iPhone 4S, was not intentionally programmed to block access to abortion clinics, a company spokeswoman told The New York Times. Instead, the exclusion of abortion- and women’s health-related search results retrieved through Siri is simply the result of the product still being in ‘beta’ mode.
“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,” said Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris. “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.”
The clarification comes after a number of bloggers noticed that Siri would not automatically find abortion clinics. Some speculated that this was due to Apple itself taking a position on the everlasting debate on a woman’s right to choose — or lack thereof.
After the news surfaced, pro-choice organizations pounced on Apple. For instance, the American Civil Liberties Union launched an online campaign asking pro-choice supporters to contact Apple with a pre-made letter that reads:
I was distressed to hear that Siri, the voice activated personal assistant on the new iPhone 4S, can tell users where to find Viagra and burgers and even escort services, but cannot direct users to resources where they can access information about birth control or abortion care. Just as troubling, Siri not only doesn’t provide information about abortion providers, but instead directs women to pregnancy crisis centers. These businesses not only do not provide or refer for abortion care, but are notorious for providing false and misleading information about abortion to women.
I am aware that Siri is still in beta, which suggests that you can fix this problem in future versions. I urge you to correct this glitch, so Siri provides the same service to women seeking information about vital reproductive health care services as to users seeking Viagra, burgers, and other services.
This issue is important to me. Please address this right away.
It is not yet clear whether the way in which Apple addressed the issue so far will calm their outrage.