Google Home inadvertently calls the cops and ends domestic violence: Report

Even Amazon Echo had once helped the police in a murder investigation.


Technology has changed our lives in ways we’d possibly never imagined. Consider this — Google’s smart speaker and voice assistant, Google Home, helped end a violent domestic dispute in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when it called the police through the help of smart commands that were already fed into it. Google Home dialled 911, and the operator heard a confrontation in the background, Gizmodo reported. A SWAT team then arrived at the spot and took the assaulter to custody.

Google’s latest updates for Home allow hands-free calling on the smart speaker. Thus, when a man named Eduardo Barros asked “did you call the sheriffs?” while threatening his girlfriend with a gun, the device interpreted it as a request to call the emergency services. “The unexpected use of this new technology to contact emergency services has possibly helped save a life,” the County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales later said in a statement.

While Google Home literally played cop here, it has also led to awkward situations in the past. The device once called 911 in response to dialogues in a TV show. Its competitor device, Amazon Echo, too has led to chaotic situations. In January, a local news broadcast involving a dollhouse reportedly triggered multiple Amazon Echo devices in San Diego to start ordering dollhouses. While Echo devices have voice ordering turned on by default, Amazon later said that it can be turned off in Settings. The company also nullified all accidental orders.

In another case, Amazon Echo played a pivotal role in the investigation of a murder in the state of Arkansas. While the Seattle-based company initially refused to co-operate with the local police citing constitutional ethics, it later relented and shared cloud-stored data from its Alexa Voice Service. The cops reckoned that Alexa might have overheard a murder taking place in a house. Perhaps inadvertent voice commands aren’t all that bad. Hail technology!

  • Published Date: July 10, 2017 5:15 PM IST