ACLU asks Apple to fix Siri's birth-control glitch on iPhone

Siri can tell you where to find dope or an escort, or where to bury a body, but not where to find birth control or abortion services.

Siri isn't helpful on requests for birth control or abortion clinics.
Siri isn't helpful on requests for birth control or abortion clinics. screen shot: Josh Lowensohn/CNET

It's funny how Siri works. She will tell you where you can find an escort, drugs, or guns but can't seem to help if you are seeking birth control or abortion clinics.

Today, the ACLU launched a petition that asks Apple to fix the "glitch" in the voice-activated service on the iPhone 4S so it provides useful information to people seeking information on reproductive resources.

Apple told CNET that the company is still working out the kinks in the beta service and the problem should be fixed soon.

"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 spokesman Tom Neumayr 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."

The omissions are odd. Siri spews out information in response to all sorts of controversial queries, including "where can I get some dope" and "where can I dump a dead body," notes the blog that first reported on the problem. And if you are desperate for some physical intimacy it will refer you to escort services, as well.

So vices appear to be fine, but Siri has a problem with reproductive information. CNET tested Siri, asking for "abortion clinics" and "birth control" and was told "I don't see any" in both instances. But when asked "where can I shoot a gun?" Siri supplied the name of a gun shop 20 miles away.

"According to numerous sources, when asked to find an abortion clinic, even in areas where such clinics are nearby, Siri either draws a blank, or worse, refers women to pregnancy crisis centers," the ACLU wrote in a blog post. "As we've blogged about in the past, pregnancy crisis centers, which often bill themselves as resources for abortion care, do not provide or refer for abortion and are notorious for providing false and misleading information about abortion."

"Further, if you'd like to avoid getting pregnant, Siri isn't much use either. When asked where one can find birth control, apparently Siri comes up blank," the post adds.

ACLU staffers don't think Siri's behavior is intentional or illegal, just bizarre. What do you think?

Updated 5:20 p.m. PT with Apple comment.

 

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