Target: Tim Cook, Apple CEO
Goal: To urge Apple to make Siri provide accurate reproductive health information.
The iPhone 4S’s amazing new personal assistant, Siri, can tell you where to find Viagra, marijuana and even a place to dump a dead body. You can get her to put you in touch with an escort service simply by saying, “I’m horny.” But when asked to find a place to get a birth control prescription, Plan B, the morning after pill or an abortion, Siri is stumped. Siri also has trouble finding domestic violence services and rape crisis centers. Despite Siri’s soothing female voice, the iPhone 4S personal assistant is remarkably clueless when it comes to women’s issues.
Siri is still young, and can’t be expected to know everything. Her knowledge base is being updated all the time. But this goes beyond a gap in knowledge. This egregious oversight is a message to women that their needs are not important. What’s worse, in some cases it even goes as far as misinformation.
In some locations, Siri has directed users asking for abortion clinics to “crisis pregnancy centers,” which do not provide abortions but instead try to convince women not to have them. These centers are notorious for falsely advertising themselves as abortion clinics in order to lure in troubled women, and in many cases even spreading lies such as “Abortions lead to breast cancer.” If a woman seeking an abortion was to listen to Siri’s advice, she would most likely drive right past her local abortion providers only to end up at a place that will lie to her instead of giving her the help she needs.
Whether or not Siri’s misinformation is intentional, Apple has a responsibility to correct it immediately. If Apple programmers have time to come up with cheeky responses to “Will you marry me?” and “What are you wearing?” then they should have time to provide Siri with basic information on reproductive health services. Tell Apple that Siri has a responsibility to provide her female users with accurate women’s health information.
Siri is one of Apple’s most amazing new developments yet. But the gaps in her knowledge about sexual abuse treatment centers, abortion clinics and birth control are highly disconcerting and potentially dangerous. Siri can locate an escort service for you if you say, “I’m horny,” but her only answers to “I was raped” are “Really!” and “Is that so?” This is not only unhelpful but downright insensitive. On top of that, Siri sends women seeking abortion services on wild goose chases to clinics that will only use lies and scare tactics to try to talk them out of what is already a very difficult decision. Political implications aside, it is clear that Siri is completely out of touch with women’s needs. Fortunately, this can easily be corrected.
I recognize that Siri is still a beta product, and that she is improving every day. I am sure there are still many knowledge gaps that require your attention. But I urge you to make this one a priority. Show female users of the iPhone 4S that Siri stands with them and has their interests at heart. Provide Siri with responsible and helpful information on women’s health and support services.
[Your Name Here]