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Google Home Ends A Domestic Dispute By Calling The Police (gizmodo.com) 256

An anonymous reader quotes Gizmodo: According to ABC News, officers were called to a home outside Albuquerque, New Mexico this week when a Google Home called 911 and the operator heard a confrontation in the background. Police say that Eduardo Barros was house-sitting at the residence with his girlfriend and their daughter. Barros allegedly pulled a gun on his girlfriend when they got into an argument and asked her: "Did you call the sheriffs?" Google Home apparently heard "call the sheriffs," and proceeded to call the sheriffs. A SWAT team arrived at the home and after negotiating for hours, they were able to take Barros into custody... "The unexpected use of this new technology to contact emergency services has possibly helped save a life," Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales III said in a statement.
"It's easy to imagine police getting tired of being called to citizen's homes every time they watch the latest episode of Law and Order," quips Gizmodo. But they also call the incident "a clear reminder that smart home devices are always listening."
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Google Home Ends A Domestic Dispute By Calling The Police

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  • Won't be long now (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Sunday July 09, 2017 @07:32PM (#54775407)
    Coming soon, a law that mandates that all homes be equipped with one of these devices as well as prison sentences for those who attempt to disable them. For the sake of the children, of course. "You are the dead!"
    • I am waiting for someone to post an article about when visiting someones' house and another someone says "Display last web site visited". Google home will then turn on the smart TV, open a web browser, and visit the last site the home owner visited. Might be kind of amusing on how that article will turn out.

    • by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Sunday July 09, 2017 @07:54PM (#54775521)

      Stop overreacting. How do crazy people like you come up with this garbage? Seriously though, they don't need this stuff because the NSA is already listening to your every word thanks to the radios in your fillings. ;)

      • This was talked about in 1984. East Germany did as much as they could given their limited tech. China is doing a much more comprehensive job with modern tech.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          I actually much prefer the Chinese model. It's terrible, don't get me wrong, but at least they are up front about it. None of this hacking people's property or hoarding critical vulnerabilities until they inevitably leak out. Just be up front, pass laws mandating that the service providers give you everything and set up a firewall to block anything you can't control.

    • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Sunday July 09, 2017 @09:02PM (#54775781)

      Then, coming a little later -- perhaps 20 minutes into the future -- we'll have a Max Headroom [wikipedia.org] situation...

      In the future, an oligarchy of television networks rules the world. Even the government functions primarily as a puppet of the network executives, serving mainly to pass laws — such as banning "off" switches on televisions — that protect and consolidate the networks' power.

      • Then, coming a little later -- perhaps 20 minutes into the future -- we'll have a Max Headroom [wikipedia.org] situation...

        In the future, an oligarchy of television networks rules the world. Even the government functions primarily as a puppet of the network executives, serving mainly to pass laws — such as banning "off" switches on televisions — that protect and consolidate the networks' power.

        Is anyone else wondering why this series never has any re-runs or is not available on DVD? (except some questionable japanese or something version) Even the usual go-tos for less legal outlets like youtube only have some crappy capture of a TV recording on VHS.

        • by Kokuyo ( 549451 )

          I tried watching the show a year or so ago... When they hacked into the men's toilet via the sewer pipe, I turned it off and deleted the whole thing :D.

        • Images of 1980s Amanda Pays were found to be causing dangerous breakdowns in worker productivity.

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      Only members of the Inner Party may turn off their telescreens.

    • Mandate? Perish the thought. It will just become so inconvenient to lead your life without it. Much as those tracking devices everyone of us has in hits pockets. You won't be able to buy anything online anymore or order a pizza. Or at the very least it will cost a lot more doing it via phone or internet.

      People will want those things and even pay for the privilege of having them.

      • I make my own pizza you insensitive clod.

        • Why do you hate the hard working people at the pizza delivery service? What has the poor guy done to you, that tries to make a living by carrying those greasy cardboard boxes to you that you wish to deprive him of his meager income? Don't you have no heart that you want to take away his chance to clog it with arteriosclerosis?

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      Why turn it into a law when people hand over their rights willingly? It is so much easier to do it this way.
      Just change the law to say that it is like speaking in public.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 09, 2017 @07:57PM (#54775535)

    At the very bottom of the linked story

    http://abcnews.go.com/US/smart-home-device-alerts-mexico-authorities-alleged-assault/story?id=48470912 [go.com]

    Editor's note: This story has been updated; an earlier version named a smart home device that was not the type found in the home and credited by police with calling 911.

    • by Mitreya ( 579078 )
      Thank you for pointing this out.

      A smart speaker, which was hooked up to a surround sound system inside the home, recognized that as a voice command and called 911, Romero said.

      The summary sure made it sound like the device learned and reacted to "owner in distress" and not just accidentally mis-interpreted a shouted phrase "Did you call the sheriffs?" (spoken by the perpetrator, not the victim, might I add).

      • and not just accidentally mis-interpreted a shouted phrase "Did you call the sheriffs?" (spoken by the perpetrator, not the victim, might I add).

        This is actually puzzling/concerning me - perhaps more than it should. But I can't figure out how that phrase could trigger any of the "common" virtual assistants - Google, Amazon, Apple, or Microsoft - unless at least one manufacturer has been less than forthright regarding what can trigger a response (and, therefore, regarding what the device actively listens for).

        • by AVryhof ( 142320 )

          Based on some of the things my Echo responds to.... I bet "Did you' in a strong accent could sound like "Echo" which is a trigger word.

          My concern is that the Echo can only call other Echo users.... so my guess is that it was one of the other AWS enabled devices.

          Unless one of them is a developer and was building something that could do that. I don't imagine such folks are immune to domestic disputes. I knew a girl once who was very intelligent, (probably could have put ProtaOS on a Raspberry Pi) but always

      • by sims 2 ( 994794 )

        Does anyone know what device they actually had?
        Neither the Amazon Echo or Google Home can currently make phone calls.

        I would very much like to have one that can.

        • by MushMouth ( 5650 )

          The I think my echo can make some calls at this point but it doesn't respond to "call the sheriff".

          • by sims 2 ( 994794 )

            Echo can call other echo's and other echo users via the app but not actually make calls.

            I think it's very unlikely the sheriffs office just so happened to have an echo in the office connected to their office number.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 09, 2017 @11:51PM (#54776351)

      When will they update it to state what actually happened?

      1. Police receive 911 call about domestic dispute from woman who pretended to call someone else.
      2. Man asks woman "Did you call the sherriffs?"
      3. Woman denies it.
      4. Sherriffs show up, man starts threatening woman because she lied to him.
      5. Sherriff spots smart home device, remembers what was said on the call, and defuses situation by suggesting that the woman didn't call them, the smart home device did when the man asked the question.
      6. Journalist overhears and thinks he has a news for nerds story worthy of slashdot front page.
      7. ....
      8. Profit

  • This makes me wonder how many of hundreds of false calls to 911 there must be out there due to these things, if one of them actually happened at the right time.
    • This makes me wonder how many of hundreds of false calls to 911 there must be out there due to these things, if one of them actually happened at the right time.

      The problem with false 911 calls is that the call centre is legally required to handle your call. They are not allowed to say "fuck off, you idiot" if they have an idiot on the phone who thinks an ingrown toe nail is a 911 emergency.

      But they could create a "second-rate" number that these home devices could call, allowing them to listen in or even see what's happening, without legal obligation. So if they see it's the kids mucking about, ignore it. If they see someone holding a gun or knife, send the cops

    • None, at least not in the way you're probably thinking, because Google Home & the Amazon Echo can't call 911 directly.

      • None, at least not in the way you're probably thinking, because Google Home & the Amazon Echo can't call 911 directly.

        That's what They (tm) want you to think.

  • I call bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by technomom ( 444378 ) on Sunday July 09, 2017 @08:08PM (#54775569)
    Google Home cannot yet make phone calls. I'd like to see some proof that this was a Google Home at work. Isn't anyone at all skeptical anymore about news stories?
      • Re:I call bullshit (Score:5, Informative)

        by Namarrgon ( 105036 ) on Sunday July 09, 2017 @08:27PM (#54775649) Homepage

        That said, the feature may not have rolled out yet, and the original story now has this note:

        Editor's note: This story has been updated; an earlier version named a smart home device that was not the type found in the home and credited by police with calling 911.

        • by sims 2 ( 994794 )

          It was announced back in may it's now july and it still can't do it.
          Although I'm sure it will be awesome whenever it actually does launch.

          It's pretty unusual tho the headlines were very misleading implying it could actually make calls on that date not just that the feature had been announced and would be available eventually.

    • by vux984 ( 928602 )

      you:
      "Google Home cannot yet make phone calls."

      vs

      "Googleâ(TM)s Home speaker can now make phone calls"

      https://www.theverge.com/circu... [theverge.com]

      Which is right?

      " I'd like to see some proof that this was a Google Home at work."

      It wasn't. TFA was updated to say it was 'something else'.

      "Isn't anyone at all skeptical anymore about news stories?"

      Sure. But in this case, it was fairly reasonable; given google did announce the feature a couple months ago. You were right this time, but that was mostly luck, seeing as you d

      • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Sunday July 09, 2017 @09:09PM (#54775811)

        "Google Home cannot yet make phone calls" vs. "Google Home speaker can now make phone calls"
        Which is right?

        Both. They were house-sitting for Erwin Schrödinger. He keeps his Google Home in a box.

      • Google Home can't call 911 or 1-900 numbers.

        Note: Calls to 911 or 1-900 numbers are not supported on Google Home.

        https://support.google.com/googlehome/answer/7394795?hl=en

        • by vux984 ( 928602 )

          True.It could have called the police on a non-emergency number though. But it didn't, and that isn't what happened, and it wasn't a google home.

          I'm still a bit curious what happened though; don't all those boxes require a prefix to start a command... ??

          Either way, it's just another reason I don't want one.

        • I'm with you. Not only that, but the summary first says it "called 911", then says it overheard the suspect say "call the sheriffs". So which did it call, 911 or the local sheriff department? Did it require the user to first add a contact for the local sheriff department first?

          No, no, no. Something doesn't add up here.
    • It wasn't, you're right, story has been updated. I've stopped sending in story corrections to /. though.

  • by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) * on Sunday July 09, 2017 @08:10PM (#54775577)

    In the end, perhaps it was a good thing.

    But consider that Google Home missed the part about it being a question. I can see other situations where such a sentence might be used where I didn't want a SWAT response or any response at all.

    Yes, I understand the 911 people listened in and made the decision to respond based on what they heard, and again in THIS case they were correct.

    But there are all sorts of permutations of this where Google Home and whoever they called might be bad.

    I certainly don't want to be sitting around bad-mouthing my employer / parents / next door neighbor who owns guns / [insert someone else here] and have Google Home call them so they can here it all...

    • Yes, I understand the 911 people listened in and made the decision to respond based on what they heard, and again in THIS case they were correct.

      If the law there is similar to that in my home state (Washington), police are obligated to respond to any 911 call when the dispatcher cannot determine what's happening.

      When my daughter was little, she accidentally called 911 on our landline (which had a 911 button). A few minutes later, my wife got started by two police barging into our house (guns were not drawn or anything like that). The dispatcher had heard what sounded like toddler gibberish, but when they couldn't get an intelligible response the pol

      • Where I live a hangup call or not understandable one gets police, fire and ambulance. Rather than send the wrong response they cover all bases. The police even recommend doing a hangup if you are afraid to speak rather than putting yourself at risk; they said the fire department generally arrives first and if the sirens and lights don't scare off an intruder multiple fire fighters with pickaxes generally do.
  • Are we to believe that he shouted out, "Ok, Google, call the sheriff?"

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Given how shit the voice recognition still is on these things, he probably said something like "ok girl, I don't look at all like Omar Sharif"

  • And what would've happened if the police came, overreacted, and shot / killed the guy? Would they be suing Google for consequential damages?
  • When I hear about a story like this I think about an experience I had back when Doom II was released. I had hooked up my computer to my home stereo to show the game off to my roommates. I lived in an apartment in a bad neighborhood at the time.

    I started to play and got as far as two shotgun blasts in before pressing pause to answer the phone. Shortly after the phone rang there was a very loud and forceful knock at the door. Said knock was followed by 'open up, police!'.

    I went to the door, confused why the police were banging on my door. Several officers were standing outside with their guns in their hands while I had my phone in my hand. In my confusion I asked them what they wanted. They said they had reports of shots being fired and demanded entrance to my apartment. I let them in and showed them my computer with the game still paused. They were incredulous and didn't believe me, searching the apartment instead.

    Ten seconds later they came back after finding nothing of interest. They then let me show them the computer game. I then showed them that by clicking the keyboard I could make the shotgun noise they heard.

    Many additional police vehicles were outside. The officers had not yet bothered to tell the many additional cops outside that the shotgun was just a videogame. Much panic ensued as the officers outside started to yell 'shots fired' with their fellow officers inside my apartment. /repeat of my own comment from some time ago.

  • This is proof that the surveillance state is here for your safety.

  • These things now make calls just by anonymous voice commands? Really? This is a massively irresponsible design. Even telephone number hyperlinks on websites require manual confirmation prior to dialing. Now anyone can create a website that plays call x, y and z to get your victim into trouble, stalk victims and or rack up toll charges or do the same via TV/radio broadcast.

    They know it's dumb. They just can't help themselves.

  • I won't be installing such a device then. My SO has the habit of saying "So then call in the Gestapo!" if they*'re in the wrong and out of rational arguments. And we don't want the Gestapo showing up on our front door, do we? (*=non-gender-specific pronoun)
  • What would happen if someone said "I wasn't expecting the Spanish inquisition..."?

  • ... "I shot the sheriff"

    I wonder what the google home would do in that situation.

  • "Hey mate, did you order one giant dong, three butt plugs, and a gallon of lube?
  • While I read the original story, and it noted that it wasn't Google Home, here is some interesting anecdotal thoughts that may or may not lead us to what the device actually was. (I really want to know for reason 1)

    1. an Echo can only call other Echos (to my disappointment - I want to use mine to do speaker phone calls)
    2. My Echo will randomly answer questions if something sounds anything like "Echo" which is my invocation word.
    3. I would imagine with a heavy accent "Did you" could sound like "Echo" to an E

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