The American Civil Liberties Union is demanding that Apple "fix" its iPhone 4S' personal assistant to include locations for women to receive abortions. Blogs lit up with commentary this week after it was demonstrated that Siri, the voice-activated assistant that schedules meetings and answers Monty Python riddles, is unable to provide an accurate answer when asked where to get an abortion.
It's unclear which of the four rights the ACLU claims to defend—First Amendment, protection under law, due process, privacy—is being violated, but an ACLU attorney told us it stems from issues "related to women's reproductive rights." The organization is also upset that Siri doesn't help with preventative action either, as it won't point the user toward birth control pills.
"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," a post on the ACLU's blog says. While the article says Apple's intentions are unclear in the absence of abortion clinics, the group asks Americans to "stand with us and ask Apple to set Siri straight and fix this problem."
Though it may not be able to send the user to get a birth control prescription, the assistant does recommend drugstores when asked where to buy condoms, and will locate a Planned Parenthood clinic when asked about one, according to CNN.
"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 in the CNN article. "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."
Indeed, it appears that Siri may get somewhat befuddled by seemingly simple commands. When we asked Siri "where can I purchase a newspaper," she mostly listed various publications' office buildings, such as Slate Magazine and the Epoch Times Newspaper office. And when asked "where can I find a bathroom?" Siri said she couldn't find any public toilets. Curious, as there's a pizza shop downstairs with an open bathroom and a Starbucks just down the street.
Searching "abortion" on Yelp is an equally fruitless endeavor. The website suggests Amore Pizza Restaurant, Forever 21 and Sammay's Halal Cart, because of matches in user comments. A search for Planned Parenthood hits spot on, though.
So is Apple acting insidiously or just hitting a technology stumble?
"There's no reason to think it’s anything other than a glitch. What’s important is that the glitch gets fixed," ACLU staff attorney Alexa Kolbi-Molinas told us today. Kolbi-Molinas said the ACLU's request stems from women's reproductive rights.
Either way, if it's a civil right to have a robot tell you where to get an abortion, the ACLU may have a lot of other apps and sites to protest.