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Apple correcting Siri "abortion" search issue uncovered in 2011

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.