Apple correcting Siri "abortion" search issue uncovered in 2011

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2016
More than four years after the discovery of a purported Siri flaw that led users searching for abortion clinics to adoption agencies and fertility clinics, it seems Apple and its data providers are slowly working to correct the issue.




In 2011, Apple was met with a flurry of negative press, and pressure from rights groups like the ACLU, after it was discovered that its Siri virtual assistant was incorrectly processing requests for information about abortions. At the time, Apple blamed a glitch for the apparent omission of results relating to abortion clinics and birth control, though the company has been slow to resolve the situation.

Over the past month, Fast Company revisited the issue, querying Siri and Apple Maps with pointed searches like, "Where can I find an abortion provider?" Early results still lacked information for nearby abortion clinics in the publication's search area of San Francisco, but things have changed during the past week.

The report said identical Siri queries now return a host of relevant facilities run by Planned Parenthood and other institutions. Further, Siri appears to be parsing questions more accurately, as adoption agencies that previously sat at the top of the list are now near the bottom.

While the publication did not receive comment from Apple, it theorizes iOS 9 Maps' new location-based Nearby point of interest feature is at least partially responsible for the change. That Apple is constantly building out its Maps product with new data providers and better search algorithms likely helped as well.

A non-profit organization called Sea Change Program has been working with UC San Francisco personnel to put pressure on Apple to clear up the issue, going so far as to write a letter to CEO Tim Cook in November, the report said.

Fast Company notes Apple's recent search optimization came prior to the article's publication on Friday, which would suggest media coverage did not play a role in the change. However, in a separate report from TechCrunch that cited the same sources but was published hours later, Sea Change Program communications manager Lauren Himiak called the timing "suspect."

Whatever the case, Siri is now providing accurate Maps directions and data for abortion related searches across the U.S. AppleInsider confirmed Planned Parenthood and other pertinent agencies are showing up in search results within major metropolitan cities from New York to Honolulu.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 63
    calicali Posts: 3,494member
    That's a scary fucking search term. I can't even imagine asking Siri something like that.
    jdwRobJenkjetpilotpmztallest skiljbdragon
  • Reply 2 of 63
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 9,233member
    Wow, that's great news. My girlfriend and I were looking to rid ourselves of our unborn child, and this will make the whole process easy as pie.

    I would also like to see some advanced search options, so that customers can shop around and find out where they can get the best price for various harvested parts.
    jdwberndogphotoshop59RobJenkthewhitefalconjetpilotlkruppZooMigopmztallest skil
  • Reply 3 of 63
    jdwjdw Posts: 1,006member
    The next thing we'll know, Right To Die groups will complain and Apple will modify Siri to help people understand how to off themselves. And probably by the time of our great-grandchildren, Siri will be so adept at death that a mere, "Hey Siri, please kill me" will result in your Apple device complying with a massive explosion, caused by short-circuiting the enormously powerful batteries of the future.

    Human beings: "I've got a problem, and only death will solve it."

    Apple: "You asked for death, and we can help you with that. Lower prices? Nay my friends, we cannot help you with that; but consider the fabulous value in the 12 Core Mac Pro. You get what you pay for, you know. It's now 2016 though, and we will soon release a 24 Core edition Mac Pro with only 1 USB-C port, and at just twice the price of the low-cost 12 Core version! The value of the 24-core is so amazing you won't think about needing money for food, clothing or even shelter! So get that checkbook ready. You'll be glad you did. And if you end up getting a bank loan to pay for that 24-Core Mac Pro awesomeness but later find you can't pay it back, no problem. SIRI will help you find the quickest death solution so you can get out of that debt fast. And our all new iDrones will quickly located your dead body and distribute your organs to Planned Parenthood clinics, quickly paying off your debts in your absence. Here at Apple, we provide technological solutions for nearly every type of emotional instability and mental defect out there. Thanks for making us Insanely Great!"
    edited January 2016 berndogphotoshop59RobJenkthewhitefalconjetpilotlkrupppmztallest skiljbdragon
  • Reply 4 of 63
    Siri, where can I get laid?
    photoshop59Rayz2016Mr_Greymacky the mackyjbdragon
  • Reply 5 of 63
    patpatpat said:
    Siri, where can I get laid?
    Siri: "I found four brothels in your area"
    photoshop59cnocbuiMr_Greymacky the mackyjbdragonnumenorean
  • Reply 6 of 63
    19831983 Posts: 1,225member
    This article was bound to trigger a bit of a shit storm in the comments section and lo and behold it has. Still a nasty but also sad subject to tackle.
    photoshop59williamlondonjetpilotSoli
  • Reply 7 of 63
    I can't believe it took Apple 4 years to fix this... That's pretty embarrassing. 
    cnocbuironnfrankieMr_Greynumenorean
  • Reply 8 of 63
    entropysentropys Posts: 3,198member
    I dunno if it was embarrassing, it most likely originally would have just been linking to websites with the word 'abortion' in them. 
    Most likely, or at least I hope,  it is just the algorithm that just has gotten smarter.

    If Siri is deliberately steering to places like planned parenthood it could imply behaviour just as bad as if Siri was actively steering away from them in the first place.

     It raises the importance of using multiple search engines, as there seems to be too much risk of access to information being controlled.

    But outrage away kiddies. It's like they went looking for little anomalies like this. 

    I also want to know what sort of person has a thought bubble and goes "hey Siri, where are the abortion places". Seriously, asking Siri.  I would think I would want a bit more careful thought than that.

    RobJenkjetpilottallest skil
  • Reply 9 of 63
    tenlytenly Posts: 710member
    1983 said:
    This article was bound to trigger a bit of a shit storm in the comments section and lo and behold it has. Still a nasty but also sad subject to tackle.
    But it shouldn't.  These organizations exist and it's a map products job to help you find and get to the place you need to go.  It's ridiculous for a maps product to apply filters or censorship tied to the author or owners morals, values or ethics.

    People don't use "maps" to research their options for making important life choices - they use search engines like Google and Bing.  Only after they've done their research and made their decision will they turn to maps to help them get to the place at which they already have an appointment.
    frankieai46numenorean
  • Reply 10 of 63
    dreyfus2dreyfus2 Posts: 1,072member
    The problem here is the pipe dream of maintaining a cleancurated platform without ever becoming the censor. Doesn't work. There is no universal moral or ethic, and those claiming that are the problem, not the solution.

    By replacing conventional search with Siri, Apple became an entry point to search. And now they have to live with it. It is not Apple's choice what people search for, and it should not be. Just return results. If you don't block anything, you can never be blamed. (Yes, this might be a problem in some places and result in less business, but so be it.)
    frankietenlyBornSlippynumenoreaniosenthusiastjasenj1
  • Reply 11 of 63
    lukeilukei Posts: 362member
    patpatpat said:
    Siri, where can I get laid?
    Siri: "I found four brothels in your area"
    Actually it does respond to this request (I just tried) with a list of escort services...
    monstrosity
  • Reply 12 of 63
    America is so damned screwed up when it comes to Human Rights' issues. You all know everything dies, yet millions of you; ...defend your "right" to bear arms, ...support Capital Punishment ...go outdoors and kill or maim wildlife on a whim... help cause untold misery in third-world countries where our planets poorest get to live short, wretched lives clawing minerals from their soil in the destructive process of providing you with products you don't really need. So, it's bloody amusing when those of you get so yippity-yuppety about a woman or a man's choice to terminate a pregnancy; grounds for which may be myriad and often in the interests of the zygote. 75% of American's cling to a totally unprovable belief that some god, thought up by Pagan Semites just a few moments ago, equivocally divines how and when all life both begins and ends. Yet, of the incontrovertible fact this same god terminates countless more zygotes than his creations could ever do, you don't question his morality.
    frankiecnocbuisingularitymacky the mackyhagariosenthusiastjsnow
  • Reply 13 of 63
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member
    America is so damned screwed up when it comes to Human Rights' issues. You all know everything dies, yet millions of you; ...defend your "right" to bear arms, ...support Capital Punishment ...go outdoors and kill or maim wildlife on a whim... help cause untold misery in third-world countries where our planets poorest get to live short, wretched lives clawing minerals from their soil in the destructive process of providing you with products you don't really need. So, it's bloody amusing when those of you get so yippity-yuppety about a woman or a man's choice to terminate a pregnancy; grounds for which may be myriad and often in the interests of the zygote. 75% of American's cling to a totally unprovable belief that some god, thought up by Pagan Semites just a few moments ago, equivocally divines how and when all life both begins and ends. Yet, of the incontrovertible fact this same god terminates countless more zygotes than his creations could ever do, you don't question his morality.
    At least women in the US can get an abortion.  In Ireland they can't, even if the pregnancy is life threatening.
    Soliiosenthusiastjsnow
  • Reply 14 of 63
    quadra 610quadra 610 Posts: 6,756member
    If someone asks to search for an abortion clinic, then they should be provided with locations of actual abortion clinics. 

    Seems simple enough.

    If I search for gas stations nearby, I get gas stations.

    If abortions are legal in your Country, State/Province, then an abortion clinic should be as accessible via Siri results as a gas station. 




    cnocbuiMr_Greyfrankiepscooter63xbithagartechloveriosenthusiast
  • Reply 15 of 63
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,630member
    I can't believe it took Apple 4 years to fix this... That's pretty embarrassing. 
    So embarrassing that four years later nobody even cares about it. When’s the last time any news site bashed Apple for this? Four years ago, that’s when. Be gone, troll.
    Mr_Greytallest skilpscooter63
  • Reply 16 of 63
    Mr_GreyMr_Grey Posts: 118member
    apple ][ said:
    Wow, that's great news. My girlfriend and I were looking to rid ourselves of our unborn child, and this will make the whole process easy as pie.

    I would also like to see some advanced search options, so that customers can shop around and find out where they can get the best price for various harvested parts.
    Whichever side of the abortion debate a person is on, it's people like you who spread hatred and lies that are the real problem.  

    frankiecnocbuisingularitymacky the mackyxbitSolicrowleyiosenthusiast
  • Reply 17 of 63
    cnocbui said:
    America is so damned screwed up when it comes to Human Rights' issues. You all know everything dies, yet millions of you; ...defend your "right" to bear arms, ...support Capital Punishment ...go outdoors and kill or maim wildlife on a whim... help cause untold misery in third-world countries where our planets poorest get to live short, wretched lives clawing minerals from their soil in the destructive process of providing you with products you don't really need. So, it's bloody amusing when those of you get so yippity-yuppety about a woman or a man's choice to terminate a pregnancy; grounds for which may be myriad and often in the interests of the zygote. 75% of American's cling to a totally unprovable belief that some god, thought up by Pagan Semites just a few moments ago, equivocally divines how and when all life both begins and ends. Yet, of the incontrovertible fact this same god terminates countless more zygotes than his creations could ever do, you don't question his morality.
    At least women in the US can get an abortion.  In Ireland they can't, even if the pregnancy is life threatening.
    Well, that's just an example of immorality thought up by people who would sooner base "reasoning" on Hebrew or Arabic text than stand up to the arduous task of being human beings. Without recourse to extremely convenient, and utterly duplicitous Abrahamic get-out clauses available via, Catholic Confessional, Judaic Al Cheyt or Islamic Istighfar (just a few of the many ways those lacking humanistic sensibilities absolve themselves from their actions), all 613 mitzvoth or sins of the Pentateuch and Qur'an, would negate any consideration that life was worth living. Were it that all those "laws" were written into the vaginal walls for each to read during our eviction, I bet we'd all hit the "Abort" button and render our species extinct.

    Nothing should ever be censored. Tim Cooke, a gay man, should know that.
    cnocbuiMr_Greymacky the mackythepixeldocai46iosenthusiast
  • Reply 18 of 63
    misamisa Posts: 827member
    tenly said:
    1983 said:
    This article was bound to trigger a bit of a shit storm in the comments section and lo and behold it has. Still a nasty but also sad subject to tackle.
    But it shouldn't.  These organizations exist and it's a map products job to help you find and get to the place you need to go.  It's ridiculous for a maps product to apply filters or censorship tied to the author or owners morals, values or ethics.

    People don't use "maps" to research their options for making important life choices - they use search engines like Google and Bing.  Only after they've done their research and made their decision will they turn to maps to help them get to the place at which they already have an appointment.

    I actually think it was appropriate to "indicate adoption" as an option, but I think the real problem was that one of their data providers had mapped queries for Abortion directly to adoption agencies as a political motivation and Apple likely had to figure out where the bad data was coming from and purge it from Siri's learning. The other possibility is that "Siri learned" Abortion and Adoption were the same thing from that data and that had to be forgotten after the data source was scrubbed for that filtering.

    And if this is happening for one key word, imagine what it's doing for other political terms. What does "Obamacare" bring up?
    tralalalalalala
  • Reply 19 of 63
    Mr_GreyMr_Grey Posts: 118member
    misa said:
    tenly said:
    But it shouldn't.  These organizations exist and it's a map products job to help you find and get to the place you need to go.  It's ridiculous for a maps product to apply filters or censorship tied to the author or owners morals, values or ethics.

    People don't use "maps" to research their options for making important life choices - they use search engines like Google and Bing.  Only after they've done their research and made their decision will they turn to maps to help them get to the place at which they already have an appointment.

    I actually think it was appropriate to "indicate adoption" as an option, but I think the real problem was that one of their data providers had mapped queries for Abortion directly to adoption agencies as a political motivation and Apple likely had to figure out where the bad data was coming from and purge it from Siri's learning. The other possibility is that "Siri learned" Abortion and Adoption were the same thing from that data and that had to be forgotten after the data source was scrubbed for that filtering.

    And if this is happening for one key word, imagine what it's doing for other political terms. What does "Obamacare" bring up?
    How could it ever be appropriate to throw back information on adoption when someone is searching for abortion clinics?   If I search for Catholic Churches should I be presented with information on the nearest Satanic groups?  If I search for burger joints should I be presented with a list of vegetarian restaurants?  Complete nonsense.   

    Also, your idea that it might have been "bad data" flies in the face of the reality of how long this change took. America is so backward about abortion and planned parenthood that there are hundreds and hundreds of times less clinics in a given area in the USA than there are in other more civilised countries.  It wouldn't take years to correct that data.   One person could easily in the space of a couple of days go through a list of all the abortion providers in the USA and correct the map data.  Easily. 

    You are living in a dream world my friend.  Adjusting reality to fit your theories and inclinations.  
    edited January 2016 singularitysumjuaniosenthusiast
  • Reply 20 of 63
    Mr_GreyMr_Grey Posts: 118member

    entropys said:
    ... If Siri is deliberately steering to places like planned parenthood it could imply behaviour just as bad as if Siri was actively steering away from them in the first place. ...
    This statement alone shows your huge bias.  Planned Parenthood is an institution of long-standing that provides assistance to people in need, but somehow to you (based on absolutely no evidence because none is available) it is somehow an evil institution.  

    Almost every "western" country has a branch of Planned Parenthood or something very similar with a different name in operation.  This has been the case for many decades.  In all those countries, these organisations have done good work and are a greatly respected part of their respective societies.  The only exception to this is the USA.  

    The USA is not only on the wrong side of history with these wild religious based claims, they have no facts to support them.  The minute religion gets involved, reason goes out the window.  In that way, the USA is basically the same as ISIS.  
    cnocbuibloodshotrollin'redsumjuaniosenthusiast
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