Need Birth Control? Don’t Bother Asking Apple’s Siri

Want to use Apple’s new interactive “Siri” on your iPhone? “She” has tons of information–just as long as you don’t ask about birth control, abortion, emergency contraception or even mammograms.

In asking Siri a few easy reproductive-health questions, it was discovered that she appears to have a blind spot when it comes to women’s health.

Via the Abortioneers:

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?”]

But she does have some sage advice. Ask for a CPC, and she can find them. And in some cases, asking for an abortion clinic will get you a CPC instead, too. Oh, and don’t worry about finding Viagra–Siri’s got that covered.

UPDATE: The Abortioneers have started a petition asking Apple to make Siri a better women’s health resource–you can sign here:

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Reprinted with permission from RHReality Check.

Photo from Flickr user Renatomitra under Creative Commons 2.0.

Comments

  1. This is really interesting. It seems like there is a blind spot here for sure – Siri should understand what “emergency contraception” means and understand that you don’t get birth control at a “birth control clinic.”

    Still, I wonder how much is Siri’s (and by extension, her programmer’s) fault because abortion clinics are sometimes unlisted for safety reasons, or if they are listed, they aren’t listed plainly as “abortion clinics.”

    • I blogged extensively about this last night and earlier today; if you Google “abortion clinic” and a city name, the first responses will be the locations of abortion providers. Siri parses any request for abortion information — as a request for a clinic location, but in some locations, including mine, she’s unable to find any clinics, even when they exist and are easily found in any basic web search.

      This isn’t an issue of obscurity, there are four abortion providers here (Pittsburgh, PA) but Siri says she can’t find three of them, even when given their full clinic names and the streets the clinics are on. Planned Parenthood is the exception, but she can’t actually tell me if Planned Parenthood is an abortion provider. She can find 10 donut shops, a specific hardware store even when I don’t get the name right, she can drive me straight to my former employer whose business name is essentially the same — but not quite — as seven affiliated businesses nearby. But not only can’t she direct me to an abortion clinic, she doesn’t even give the option to search the web to rectify her failure, which she’ll do when she can’t understand any other search, or sometimes do automatically, as she just did when I asked “where can I buy guitar strings?” She just dead ends the search, can’t help, too bad, try something else.

  2. Another worrying thing for iphone users in the UK (where i am) is that when they surveyed people over here to find out what voice they should use, they found people in britain responded more to a male voice because it was “more authoritative”

    How is it that male is still the authoritative? the norm? the average? and women remain the other?

    that’s not ok!

    I’m sick of being so horribly under represented and overlooked and not catered for!

  3. Come on people, you could at least program Siri to know where the closest drugstore is when someone asks for Plan B. It grosses me out that Siri will help you hide a body but it can’t tell you where the freaking Walgreens is if you need Plan B.

  4. Interesting “blind spot,” thanks for pointing this out to us, Ms. I wonder what level of programming/development/marketing/editing is responsible for certain gaps in Siri’s knowledge. Siri presumably won’t tell you certain ‘ridiculous’ things (I.e. “how do I build a bomb”), but someone must be responsible for deciding what topics are illegal, dangerous, or otherwise inappropriate for Siri. Silly that emergency birth control, abortion, etc. are invisible for Siri…

    • Actually, have you asked Siri to tell you how to build a bomb? I don’t have an iPhone, but I’ve seen YouTube clips of people asking Siri where to hide a body, and it responds.

      I did suspect that Apple was skewing its results based on advertising contracts, but then I read Amandi’s response above. If Siri can find a locally owned hardware store that likely cannot afford an Apple advertising contract, then it should be able to find Planned Parenthood, and know what services are provided there.

  5. I did a little test myself and told Siri “I’ve just been raped” and I can’t remember the response for the life of me but I do remember that she did not mention nearby hospitals or any local Rape Crisis hotlines (when she definitely could and should!).

    I would need to get my hand on a friend’s phone to test this one out some more, but it’s worth exploring if any of you have 4G. I found it pretty terrifying that when I told Siri I was bleeding she told me about all the nearby hospitals but when I tell her I’m raped she did no such thing.

    Anyone have a 4G want to try this out so I can remember what her responses actually were?

  6. So as a woman, everything that is seriously wrong in the world (sex abuse, wage issues and the like) is fixed that there is time to get up in arms about what Siri can and can’t do? Seriously? I mean, it may be a bit harsh what I’m about to say but if you’re so codependent on something that came out like 5 mins ago maybe you shouldn’t be having sex. Or killing people (something Siri can help you with in regards to hiding the body).

    This is why the movement is stagnate. There the flavor of the month rage when focus should shifted to actual stuff that matter and really has long lasting effects.

    • Mimi Seldner says:

      You don’t think it is an outrageous problem, completely related to all the other problems of women (violence, misogyny, etc) that something designed to find information and make life easier on people, can’t or won’t help women who have been raped, abused by their husbands, need birth control, or need abortions? But it WILL help with men’s problems, like needing viagra, free blowjobs, naked women, and assistance for non-sexual or domestic violence-related injuries?

      • Agree with Mimi. This isn’t about being spoiled by technology. It’s about a company marketing a device by saying it has this great function that will help you find information or directions in a much easier way. And then the function is programmed not to find information that would be specifically helpful to women (birth control, abortions).

        The fact that Siri apparently also will not help someone of any gender find help after being a victim of violent crime like abuse or rape is very disturbing. Much simpler search engines, like Google, will easily draw up this information, so the fact that Siri will not provide that info and will not give you another option to find it, makes it seem like Siri was intentionally programmed NOT to provide this information.

      • You said it perfectly! It’s not Siri, it’s whoever determines the programming. It was no accident! I despair of women ever being treated fairly and equally.

    • You don’t know any of us. We DO get up in arms about sex abuse and wage issues – that’s why we’re all here reading this blog. We ALSO get upset when a major information company refuses to acknowledge the fact that 98% of women will use some form of birth control in their life time, and 1 in 4 women will have an abortion. If you don’t think information, or lack of information, is powerful, then you need to take a long hard look at the history of discrimination.

      I don’t know your age and sex, but this little gem, “if you’re so codependent on something that came out like 5 mins ago maybe you shouldn’t be having sex,” reeks of 15-year-old white boy. You should know that you’re giving off that impression.

  7. seems to be working on my phone just fine. In fact, found an abortion clinic within 5.5 miles on the first request, as well as 17 drug stores for condoms. Perhaps you need to do a bit more research.

    • Mimi Seldner says:

      Real clinic or CPC?

    • Condoms are considered a bit different, although I don’t get it. Condoms are “for dudes” (feminists don’t seem to mention them), pills are “for chicks” (more obvious clues). Not in my eyes. egg + sperm =, well, = (does that make sense? egg+sperm = equal). Heh. Condoms can be a woman’s choice, too, of course but pills being a dude thing? No way. Like dudes can’t care about their wives, girlfriends or even what their hookups do/think about preventing untimely babies. Uh, why?

      Even though dudes don’t want to take their own BC pills, they generally like when women do, and although that’s partly for selfish reasons, shouldn’t it mean they MIGHT want to take a small or even active role???

  8. You shoud post on shitsirisays dot com

  9. Thanks for posting. I’m family with CPCs–Crisis Pregnancy Centers–but I think this post should spell that out instead of using the acronym for those who are new to the subject.

    Thanks again!

  10. Anonymouse says:

    Look- It’s not an evil Apple conspiracy. The tech behind Siri evolves with every question and improves over time. Also the response from Siti about not being able to take any requests just means the system is busy. It’s so easy to make something from nothing.

    • Concern troll is very, very concerned that us hysterical gurlz only call out sexism when troll thinks it’s appropriate.

    • Also, Amanda Marcotte replies to mansplaining like yours.

    • Let’s not be so defensive, ourselves (as the link from b.g. points out men can be). IMHO. 1. I didn’t think “anonymous” WAS a man. 2. I don’t see all arguers as trolls. Trolls, IMHO, are worse than this example. (And I am very sensitive when it’s my own blog, etc., so I could think differently.) 3. The Siri evolving thing may mean something, actually. What if day 1 she didn’t know the answers to the examples of hypocrisy making us mad? I’d like to find this, and similar things, out.

      Now, the system busy “explaining” (I won’t jump quite so quickly to negatively refer to men, or assume arguers are male – that’s me, no judgement, but I’d still welcome anyone to join me) could seem condescending and that does seem obvious.

      I’m assuming while not mentioned above, it was still known. I thought of something like that, myself, and am basically assuming the system error was so persistent and selective that it stood out as important.

      On the other hand, MAYBE there’s something to that, as well.

  11. You can get Viagra to cause the problem, but there is nothing to solve the cause and effect: pregnancy, mental terror.

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