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ACLU to Apple: Fix Siri’s birth-control black hole

The American Civil Liberties Union has started a petition asking Apple to update Siri to direct users to places to access birth control or abortion clinics when asked.

A blog called “The Abortioners” was the first to report that while Siri can be consulted (jokingly) for places to dump a dead body, it seems to have problems directing users to locations where they can receive emergency birth control or have an abortion.

A report from The Raw Story points out that some users in the Washington, D.C., area are directed to abortion clinics in Landsdowne, Va., or in York, Penn when they ask Siri for the information.Reports from users in New York City say that Siri returns the answer, “Sorry, I couldn’t find any abortion clinics” when asked to locate those services in Manhattan.

The ACLU joins NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation in asking Apple to address the black hole in the program’s search results. NARAL sent a letter to Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook asking him to provide more complete information in the program.

In response to the reports, Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr said that the program is not intentionally leaving out the results, but is simply a work in progress.

“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,” Neumayr said in a phone interview. “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.”

In comments to the New York Times, Norman Winarsky — who runs SRI Ventures, which developed Siri before the program was sold to Apple — said that the program was designed to pull information from third-party services. He said that while he didn’t know how Siri had changed since it was acquired by Apple in 2010, he speculated that those services may not provide answers to those questions.

Related stories:

Siri: The must-have Christmas gift for multi-tasking moms

Apple’s Siri shows she’s only a beta

Siri’s British voice speaks for himself

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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