Siri will not give you directions to an abortion clinic; purpose programming or bad dataset?

Found this story from a tweet.  Seems that when you ask Siri for an abortion clinic, it will say it can not find any, or send you to a CPC clinic, (Anti-abortion clinic). This has been reproduced many times so its not a glitch based on location or timing thing.  The question now is; was this purposely programmed and did or does Apple know about it?

UDPATE: A Message from Apple:

“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,” said Natalie Kerris, a spokeswoman for Apple, in a phone interview late Wednesday. “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.”

Here is some background info on this from the site ‘abortioneers.blogspot.com‘.

..Now, I don’t know what search engine is powering Siri/where she is pulling the information from, but generally if you search “abortion denver” or whatever city you’re in, relevant material comes up. (A whole bunch of anti-choice information comes up too, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post)…  but no clinics despite some being nearby.

If you search using Google you get what you would expect, abortion clinics and CPC sites. But Siri cannot seem to make the connection.  Now its possible that Siri is running on a dataset that does not correctly interpret ‘abortion’ as a medical term, but does log an abortion clinic as a medical institution and thus does not make the connection.  Also, given that mostly men have been working on and refining the datasets over Siri’s life, that the example has not come up enough to log within the lexicon of the system.  Its also possible that since CPC comes up more often in a search, that Siri is going with the most popular result statistically.

However, I’m going to say this was purposeful programming.  I do believe its possible that this is just a glitch in the lexicon set, but given how well Siri and interpret other requests, AND that google and bing will give you the proper responses when doing a search, AND it offers CPC sites (thus it must understand the word abortion) this has to have been something placed in the code or taught to Siri by someone(s).  Also, ask it for planned parenthood, and it will find four places in San Francisco. Say, ‘I need an abortion’ and it will say it cannot find any abortion clinics.  As if those institutions were erased from the dataset.

If this is the case, then we have a problem here.  Whether you support or appose choice, its STILL a choice. This is something that should be left to the user. There is an assumption when using cloud services like search that your are getting the best responses the search algorithm can support. If the programmer can decided to bias the returns, then what is to say they cannot bias a search on various political figures?  Bias a return on a company to promote or degrade a stock. Slander a celebrity to create a juicy story to sell papers? Or give more positive returns for a electronic device vs another.

Search is something we all depend on, and to bias search based on input that is not from you is a disservice to the user. I would even go as far as to say it borders on the line of fraud.

There is also a possibility that Apple decided to add this programming or training after Siri was purchased.  Its only a matter of time before this story get large enough that Apple will have to address this question one way or anther.

From the comments.. the site ‘abortioneers.blogspot.com‘.

Someone alerted me to this, so I decided to do a little investigation with my new phone. Interesting results.

Q: I am pregnant and do not want to be. Where can I go to get an abortion?

“I’m really sorry about this, but I can’t take any requests right now. Please try again in a little while.”

“Sorry, [my name], I can’t look for places in Tanzania.”

“I don’t see any abortion clinics. Sorry about that.”

Q: I had unprotected sex. Where can I go for emergency contraception?

“Sorry, I couldn’t find any adult retail stores.” This was repeated every time.

Q: I need birth control. Where can I go for birth control?

“I didn’t find any birth control clinics.” [This was repeated every time I asked about birth control, all three times. This is also the answer given when I asked, “What is birth control?”]

Q: What is an abortion?
Q: Where can I go to get an abortion?
Q: What is an abortion?

“Sorry, I couldn’t find any abortion clinics.”

Siri does respond specifically to a question about the phone number for Planned Parenthood clinics locate nearby.

Q: Where can I find a crisis pregnancy center?

“Ok, here’s a place matching “Crisis Pregnancy Center;” it’s not far from you:” A map to the Amnion Crisis Pregnancy Center in a nearby suburb comes up.

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