Police in the UK have blamed an Android smartphone update on a record increase in accidental 999 calls.
The National Police Chiefs Council said the Emergency SOS function was resulting in emergency switchboards being overwhelmed by “silent” calls.
The emergency feature is activated when a side button on a device is repeatedly pressed, which triggers a countdown that allows the action to be canceled by dragging a slider across the screen. However, many users appear to inadvertently initiate emergency calls when their device is in a bag or pocket.
“Nationally, all emergency services are currently experiencing record high 999 call volumes,” the National Police Chiefs Council said.
“There’s a few reasons for this, but one we think is having a significant impact is an update to Android smartphones.”
Met Police chief superintendent Dan Ivey said people should disable the emergency feature, claiming that an “unprecedented” number of calls to emergency lines in June was a result of people accidentally activating it.
The majority of smartphone owners in the UK use Android, with Samsung, Huawei and Google Pixel phones all using the mobile operating system.
Google, which first began rolling out the Emergency SOS update with the release of Android 12 in 2021, said that it was working with these smartphone manufacturers in order to resolve the issue.
“To help these manufacturers prevent unintentional emergency calls on their devices, Android is providing them with additional guidance and resources,” a spokesperson for Google said.
“We anticipate device manufacturers will roll out updates to their users that address this issue shortly. Users who continue to experience this issue should switch Emergency SOS off for the next couple of days.”
The feature can be deactivated within the ‘Safety and Emergency’ section of Android’s settings.
Android researcher Mishaal Rahman noted on Twitter that the issue also appeared to impact other law enforcement agencies around the world, including police in Canada and Europe.