Android Feature Blamed for Rise in Fake Emergency Calls in the UK

Android is at the center of questions and controversy in the UK as one of its features is getting blamed for the rise in fake emergency calls. In a report the BBC claimed that police forces across the island nation reported an increase in false emergencies to the 999 switchboards (the UK’s version of 911), the influx has largely been associated with the new Emergency SOS feature of Android.

Android Feature Blamed for Rise in Fake Emergency Calls in UK

The police departments in Scotland and the British counties of Wiltshire, Devon, Cornwall, and Gloucestershire have reported a large number of silent or abandoned calls since an Android update was introduced between October 2022 and February 2023. The report also claimed that each such call takes around 20 minutes for operators to verify that it wasn’t made by someone who is not able to speak during an emergency.

Emergency SOS was sought as a useful feature for people that may be in an emergency. A user can call for help by pressing the power button multiple times. However, it can also easily get dialed mistakenly. Keeping this concern in mind, earlier this month National Police Chiefs Council shared on Twitter that users can opt to disable this feature to avoid such fake calls.

The council tweeted, “Calls to 999 where the operator cannot hear anyone on the line (silent calls) are never just ignored. Call handlers will then need to spend valuable time trying to call you back to check whether you need help, if you do accidentally dial 999, please don’t hang up. If possible, please stay on the line and let the operator know it was an accident and that you don’t need any assistance.”

Emergency SOS was first introduced with Android 12 for Google Pixel in 2021. The feature is designed to make it easier for users to call for help in situations where a user may find them under threat. Although the feature has been available on Pixel phones for almost two years, it is still a new edition on many Android devices.

Google responded to BBC’s report explaining that the phone manufacturer is responsible for providing features in different Android devices and how they will be used. A Google spokesperson spoke with BBC, “To help these manufacturers prevent unintentional emergency calls on their devices, Android is providing them with additional guidance and resources, we anticipate device manufacturers will roll out updates to their users that address this issue shortly. Users that continue to experience this issue should switch Emergency SOS off for the next couple of days.”

If a user wishes to disable Emergency SOS on their Android smartphones they can follow these simple steps:

Note: The following steps were performed on Moto G(60) smartphone.

1. Open Settings on your and search for Emergency SOS.

Open Settings on your and search for Emergency SOS

2. Select the feature and turn the Use Emergency SOS toggle off.

Open Settings on your and search for Emergency SOS

Although the Emergency SOS feature on Android phones is getting blamed for the rise in fake calls in the UK, the issue is not only confined to the English territory. Similar reports have also been observed across Europe and Canada ever since the updates were provided to Android devices. Apple too experienced issues with its emergency calling service, which signals perhaps it is time for tech companies to better utilize a feature with such noble use and serious consequences.

Source: National Police Chiefs Council Tweet

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