In October, Apple took the wraps off its latest smartphone, the iPhone 4S. The 4S had plenty of bells and whistles, including an A5 processor, an 8-megapixel camera, and a voice-operated personal assistant app called Siri. Siri is designed to answer people's questions: Where to find the best pizza, the best dish of Pad Thai, the best local roller coaster.
Just don't ask Siri to help you find the nearest abortion clinic. Over at RawStory.com, Megan Carpentier reports that Siri, in many cases, actually seems to be directing users to crisis pregnancy centers. Generally speaking, crisis pregnancy centers, or CPCs, exist to offer women alternatives to abortion. In other words, use Siri to look for an abortion clinic, and you'll end up at a place designed to talk you out of having an abortion.
"It’s an experience that’s being replicated by women around the country: despite plentiful online information about actual places to get an abortion, Siri doesn’t seem to provide it," Carpentier writes this week. "It’s a similar experience for women seeking emergency contraception: in New York City, Siri doesn’t know what Plan B is and, asked for emergency contraception, offers up a Google results page of definitions."
As Carpentier dryly notes, there are plenty of things Siri will help you find, like "the meaning of life," or Viagra. So what's going on here? Well, Apple, in the meantime, is staying mum. But in a conversation with the New York Times, Norman Winarsky, one of the founders of Siri, which was purchased by Apple in 2010, suggests that the lack of abortion clinic results may not be deliberate.
"Those answers would be coming from the Web services that Siri is connecting to, not necessarily Apple," Winarsky told the Times. "My guess at what’s happening here is that Apple has made deals with Web services that provide local business information, and Apple probably hasn’t paid much attention to all the results that come up."
The iPhone 4S received largely glowing reviews from critics, who praised the processing power on the new device, and users, who have flocked to Apple stores in droves. Apple has said it sold more than 4 million iPhone 4S handsets within three days of the Oct. 14 launch, a new company record.