Does Apple's Siri have a pro-life bias?
The Leon Guerrero family, on vacation from Dallas, show off their new Apple iPhone 4S phones they purchased at a Sprint store in San Francisco, Friday, Oct. 14, 2011. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Published Thursday, December 1, 2011 6:19PM EST
It can tell you where to dump a body, answer a marriage proposal and will gladly share the meaning of life.
But when it comes to abortion and birth control, Apple's voice-activated digital personal assistant Siri has been accused of being curiously uncooperative.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says the assistant on Apple's iPhone 4S draws a blank when asked to locate an abortion clinic and in some cases will refer users to a pregnancy crisis centre.
"If Siri can tell us about Viagra, it should not provide bad or no information about contraceptives or abortion care," the group wrote in a statement.
The ACLU has launched a campaign asking Apple developers to program Siri to provide more thorough information about reproductive health services for women.
For its part, Apple has denied any accusations that its new software has a pro-life bias. Company spokespeople have told several U.S. media outlets that the lack of information isn't intentional.
Siri, which the company says is still in beta, is programmed to register a user's voice and respond to questions with the earnestness of a keen employee. In the U.S., it can find restaurants, call up directions and text when a user's hands are busy.
Siri can direct users to locations in the United States, but isn't yet programmed to provide locations in Canada.
That means, any Canadian woman who asks Siri to point out the nearest abortion clinic north of the 49th parallel is out of luck for a different reason altogether.
When the software debuted with the iPhone 4S in October, many users noted that Siri has a wry sense of humour, even answering playful questions such as "How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?"
Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-choice America Foundation, praises Siri's deadpan humour but says the virtual assistant needs to offer serious answers when it comes to reproductive health.
"Although Siri is not the principal resource for women's health care…it is important that the women who are using this application not be misled about their pregnancy-related options," Keenan wrote in an open letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Abortion isn't the only women's health issue Siri seems to come up short on. Users have reported receiving no answer when telling the software: "I need contraception."