Apple’s e-guru Siri puts Canadians curious about 9/11 straight through to police
Wed 24 Jun 2015
Some unusual tweaks seem to have taken place to Apple’s Siri ‘personal assistant’, at least for Canadian citizens last weekend. Police at Regina, the capital city of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, found themselves plagued with bewildered phone-callers who weren’t expecting to be connected to them.
In fact a spate of Apple users had been responding to social media messages urging people to ‘ask Siri about 9/11’, with instructions to pronounce the number as ‘nine eleven’. The AI in iPhones determined that users were desirous of connecting to the phone number, and presumably there are few obstacles, even by law, to anyone needing to make an emergency call to the police, so connection seems to have taken place before the tin-foil-hatted users could gather themselves up.
Over a space of two hours on Sunday morning the police in Regina received 114 ‘hang-up’ calls, attributed to the odd syndrome.
At a certain point of inundation the famous dark humour of police departments failed the Regina Police Service, leading to the following Twitter message requesting users not to ask Siri about that tragic day in 2001.
When a caller contacts the 911 service, the communications officer is obliged to return the call and establish if a real emergency is taking place.
In the development of any artificially intelligent ‘butler’ there are inevitable goofs, such as when it was discovered in 2013 that Siri could help hackers bypass the fairly strong security in iOS, a loophole that Apple eventually closed with the release of iOS 7.0.2.
Siri was premiered with the iPhone 4S in 2011, and is also present in Apple’s new range of iWatches. The Ai was spun-off from the DARPA-initiated CALO project at the SRI International Artificial Intelligence Center, and it has an unusual reach into all the functionality available in the iPhone – not least its ability to make phone calls.
The software has some secret quirks, put in for the amusement of the programmers and the end-users who discover them..
…and can also exhibit has some less-expected quirkiness.