Apple Doesn’t Have an Anti-Abortion Agenda

| Analysis

Apple may have taken a strong stance on the environment, equal rights, and privacy, but it isn't taking an anti-abortion position. The iPhone maker came under fire after some Maps users reported seeing adoption centers instead of clinics and other health centers when using "abortion" as a search term. Those results weren't part of a conspiracy, just a search algorithm Apple is continually refining.

Apple Maps became big news after Fast Company called out the company for abortion-related search results. The publication said it performed searches in locations around San Francisco and was shown an adoption center outside the city instead of clinics providing abortion services.

Abortion search or gun search: both show accurate results in Apple MapsAbortion search or gun search: both show accurate results in Apple Maps

The assumption many people jumped to was that Apple intentionally displayed adoption center locations instead of abortion-related results when users performed their searches. The actual issue is that Apple simply isn't as good as Google yet when it comes to mobile map searches.

Google has its own system and database for logging locations for its map search results. Apple, however, relies on partner companies for much of that same data. iOS 9's Nearby feature is supposed to show more relevant results based on your location, but in some cases it seems it still isn't up to the task.

Unfortunately, Apple has been unresponsive to people pointing out glaring search result errors. Incorrect abortion-related search results have been an ongoing problem for the company, too, adding to the frustration and belief that the company is using Maps to promote an agenda.

The real issue is that Apple still has work to do before Maps is completely on par with Google Maps. The company is working on improving the Maps experience, and told TechCrunch that it's working to update and improve search results.

Our sex toy search returned predicable results, but not so much for strip clubsOur sex toy search returned predicable results, but not so much for strip clubs

Apple has been working since 2011 to improve health-related search result accuracy, and it does seem to be improving—although not as quickly or transparently as some would like. Considering the efforts some groups will take to shame women who do seek abortion assistance, however, it would be nice for Apple to accelerate its efforts to improve related search results.

That said, it looks like Apple has already made some improvements and some areas didn't seem to be having issues at all. The Mac Observer's test searches in Boulder, for example, have consistently shown accurate results. Our test searches on guns, it turns out, were equally successful.

Branching out our searches showed some intersting results. Hunting for sex toys showed us there's about as many places to buy your intimate bedroom accessories as guns around Denver and Boulder, but a search for strip clubs showed us mostly restaurants in California. Maybe we found a new conspiracy: Apple wants us to eat steak instead of getting naked.

The real conspiracy here is one of silence, not a political or philosophical agenda. Apple Maps still has room for improvement, and this is one place where the company should be a little more transparent.

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People, especially people on the Internet, are often too quick to assume the worst. They will assume that there is some agenda, or conspiracy, or nefarious purpose when the reality is that someone made a mistake. Mistakes are far more common than deliberate subterfuge. Yet you have howls of protest over something, sometimes tragic events, when in reality there is nothing to protest. It was a mistake.


“Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence” could explain it ?


Actually, I wonder if searching for abortion brings up adoption centers because many anti-abortion groups try to look like a clinic or consoling service for pregnant women in order to get them to not have abortions.

If they have ‘abortion’ in their business listing/description, that could be why the adoption agencies came up in the search.

But either way, I doubt it was a conscious choice by Apple.

Lee Dronick

Are there any abortion clinics with abortion in its business name?

Lee Dronick

I just asked Siri “Where is the nearest abortion clinic” and she responded with the Planned Parenthood a few blocks from me.

Lee Dronick

And I just searched in Maps and it returned more than a dozen Planned Parenthood Clinics and one Physician, no adoption organizations.

Scott B in DC

Umbrage is our new national religion. I’ve just learned not to pay attention to this stuff.

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