Minnesota’s top prosecutor is urging Google to fix a software update on its mobile phones that caused device users to accidentally dial 911.
On Thursday, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said the state has about 100 911 handling centers and most of them have been buried in accident emergency calls this month. Ellison blamed the increase in calls on an update to Google’s Emergency SOS feature, which allows users to dial 911 immediately. The problem is putting additional strain on already understaffed 911 centers and Google should address it immediately, Ellison said in a letter to Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai.
“The City of Minneapolis reports that it is receiving thousands of additional accidental calls each month to its 911 center,” Ellison wrote in the letter. “Anoka County said it has seen a significant spike in calls and is now dealing with hundreds of accidental calls a day. Greater Minnesota, which has smaller call centers, is also flooded with accidental calls.”
Some 911 dispatchers began seeing an increase in accidental calls during the first week of June, CBS Minnesota.
Also happens in Europe
US states aren’t the only regions dealing with accidental calls due to the new software. Police departments in Scotland and England also blamed the update for a record number of 999 (the UK’s version of 911) calls in recent weeks, the BBC reported.
Ellison said in some cases, 911 centers received calls from Android phone users who didn’t know they had the emergency SOS feature activated. He noted a recent case in Benton County where a cell phone dialed 911 repeatedly and the dispatcher answered but no one came online. Ellison said the dispatcher hung up and tried to call the user back but was unsuccessful.
“It was later discovered that a motorcyclist had kept a wireless phone equipped with Google’s Android mobile operating system in the saddlebag of their motorbike and was unaware of the SOS function,” he wrote in the letter. The emergency was activated and 911 was repeatedly called.”
Please call the dispatcher back
Ellison also asked Minnesotans who find their phones accidentally dialing 911 to call the dispatcher back and say it was a mistake. Otherwise, the dispatcher will consider the call a true emergency and law enforcement may be dispatched to the phone’s location.
The Emergency SOS feature launched in 2021 on Google’s Pixel mobile phones and was later added to other Android devices not made by Google. After the update, users can activate Emergency SOS by pressing the side button three times. Users have the option to disable this feature in their phone’s settings menu.
Alphabet, Google’s parent company, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A Google spokesperson told the BBC that mobile phone manufacturers offering emergency SOS must manage how that feature works on their respective devices.
“To help these manufacturers prevent unintentional emergency calls on their devices, Android is providing them with additional guidance and resources,” the spokesperson said. “We anticipate device manufacturers will soon roll out updates to their users to resolve this issue. Users who continue to experience this issue are advised to disable Emergency SOS in the next few days .”