If you asked Apple's Siri to help you find an abortion center or related information recently, you'd know that the virtual assistant feature built into the iPhone 4S isn't very helpful in that regard. But why? Is it promoting a pro-life agenda? Or is there a far more innocent explanation?
According to what an Apple spokesperson told the New York Times, Siri's inability to track down information related to abortion centers — even if there are several in your area — is not part of some sort of conspiracy, it's just a glitch:
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.
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.
Yes, Siri — as Apple has mentioned in the past — is considered to be in "beta." This means that it is still in the development phase, not a "final" product. (It also means that every single iPhone 4S owner is technically testing software for Apple.)
Unfortunately this designation additionally means that we're bound to encounter strange quirks and behavior when it comes to the virtual assistant.
As Raw Story's Megan Carpentier — one of the first bloggers to notice the abortion center search issue — points out, Siri is capable of helping users find escort services, strip clubs, places to hide a dead body, the meaning of life, and a variety of other niche information despite the incomplete results it spits out in response to questions about reproductive health services.
While Apple's statement to the New York Times suggests that it intends on correcting this particular discrepancy — as well as other undiscovered glitches, perhaps — soon, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has begun a petition to urge the company to make a change right away.
We're not certain that the petition can affect the timing of the fix though, as it is uncertain whether Apple needs to release an update to iOS — its mobile operating system — in order to make changes to Siri or whether tweaks can be made directly on Apple's servers (which Siri contacts whenever you use it). We've asked Apple for clarification on this process and will update this story once we receive an explanation.
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