Apple: Siri 'Abortion' Blackout Is A Beta Software Issue (UPDATE)
Scroll down for statement from Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Apple found itself embroiled in controversy this week after iPhone users voiced concerns about Siri, the new handset's voice-controlled digital assistant feature. At the request of the user, Siri can search for and display the location of a bookstore or coffee shop; however, some users recently noticed that Siri draws a blank when asked to find abortion clinics.
Apple responded to the uproar caused by this discovery in a phone interview with the New York Times on Wednesday. Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris, told the Times, "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."
Nevertheless, others outside of Apple have cried foul, especially after The Raw Story reported that when unnamed iPhone 4S users in Washington D.C. inquired about abortion services, the results provided allegedly directed the users to pregnancy crisis centers in other states. According to the ACLU, pregnancy crisis centers "do not provide or refer for abortion and are notorious for providing false and misleading information about abortion."
Siri is also reportedly unable to answer when asked about finding birth control, although she can tell you which hospital to go to if you've had an erection for more than five hours, The Raw Story reports.
One San Francisco iPhone user told The Huffington Post that when he asked Siri to "Find abortion clinics" it responded, "I don't see any abortion clinics. sorry about that." When he asked Siri, "Why are you anti-abortion?" it responded "I am what I am." Other users have reported similar experiences.
The ACLU has asked people to sign a pledge urging Apple to fix the "glitch." According to Computer World, pro-choice activists started a similar petition on Change.org, which called for Apple to teach Siri about contraceptives, family planning services as well as abortion clinics. As of this writing, 1,457 people had signed the petition.
Norman Winarsky, one of the founders of Siri before Apple bought it in 2010, told the New York Times that the third-party services Siri uses to answer questions could be the cause of the problem.
An Apple rep was not immediately available for comment.
UPDATE: Apple CEO Tim Cook provided the following statement to Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation:
Thanks for your note.
Our customers use Siri to find out all types of information and while it can find a lot, it doesn't always find what you want. 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.
I appreciate you pointing this out.