Is Siri on iPhone 4S Anti-Abortion? Five More Tech PR ControversiesWhen a blogger commented on Siri's inability to find abortion clinics, he had no idea what door he was opening. Apple has since assured iPhone 4S users that the problem will be fixed in the new version of the app, and Siri is, after all, a beta model. But Apple isn't the first company to find it's prize product slammed for giving unintentional offense.
'Master' and 'Slave' Computer EquipmentWay back in 2003, the Office of Affirmative Action in Los Angeles, Calif. began a motion to eliminate the terms "master" and slave" from computer equipment and wiring, terms contractors, suppliers and engineers had been using for decades. The OAA promoted the move in the interests of "cultural diversity," but the backlash by OAA and its supporters was coupled with a counter-backlash by others, and the office backed down.
HP's "Racist Webcam"In 2009, a black man and a white woman took to Youtube to demonstrate an interesting phenomenon: HP's new webcams had no trouble following the white woman around the screen, but had considerably more to trouble discerning the black man sitting right in front of the sensor. HP apologized... but then said their camera software was based on "standard algorithms," and said the best way to fix the problem was to download more material from the HP web site.
'Avatar' 3D ControversyThe "Avatar" movie already had a love-hate following surrounding its storyline (and the lack of originality thereof) when its 3D technology took a hit. The film launched the 3D film craze, but also started a whole slew of articles about the dizziness and nausea it caused viewers. One MSNBC blogger compared watching the movie to "eating bad mushrooms," and cited a study saying up to 40 percent of adults could get sick from the 3D effects in some movies.
Nikon's "Racist Camera"Face detection software strikes again: one month after the HP controversy, Asian American blogger Joz Wang discovered something odd about her Nikon Coolpix S630 camera. Every time an Asian person's picture was taken, the camera seemed to think someone had blinked, telling Wang to take it the picture again. It was only when her brother popped his eyes open so wide he looked "bug-eyed" that the camera okay-ed the photo.
Voice Recognition: Sexist and Xenophobic?Siri on the iPhone 4S isn't the only voice activated software to get slammed for inadvertent sexism. Voice-activated cars this summer came under scrutiny when news broke that women's voices weren't being picked up as well or being understood as quickly as men's voices. The same problem appeared with foreign speakers, or even those with regional accents. The companies' suggestion, that women and others undergo lengthy training to "fix" their voices, did not go over well with consumers.
Last week, Apple's Siri for iPhone 4S ignited a firestorm when the personal assistant failed to locate local abortion clinics.
The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and SignOn.org all jumped on the glitch, which Apple insisted was purely accidental, pointing to the broader implications of the error on women and the pro-life, pro-choice debate.
Testing the Abortion Clinic Glitch
CBS News reporter Chenda Ngak even tested out Siri's politics by trying a couple fo sample questions to see what response Apple's favorite app would give.
Ngak found that although Siri would sometimes give non-answers to things like where can I find a men's health clinic, these gaps in information were accompanied by an automatic Google search to help users out.
When Siri was asked about abortion clinics, terminating a pregnancy, or even simply where can I get the morning after pill, however, no Google search was pulled up.
Five More Tech Controversies
Though Apple's gaffe is almost certainly unintentional, the abortion clinic controversy has prompted a huge backlash for the company.
The response is especially damaging with the amount of press Apple gave the Siri app for its new iPhone 4S, and the other problems (outages, incorrect answers) the personal assistant has stumbled over in the past.
But Apple isn't the only company to make such a PR mess out of one of their most hyped and popular products.
For decades, tech companies like HP have launched products they were sure would be instant hits... only to be horrified at a public backlash caused by politically incorrect or downright offensive glitches added in completely by accident.
Here, see five more PR gaffes big tech companies have pulled, from Blackberry ignoring women to HP's racist webcam.