Minnesota’s top prosecutor is urging Google to fix a software update on its cellphones that has led to device-users unintentionally dialing 911.
The state has roughly 100 centers that handle 911 operations and most of them have been buried in accidental emergency calls this month, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said Thursday. Ellison blamed the increased calls on an update to Google’s Emergency SOS feature, which allows users to instantly dial 911. The issue is causing added stress to already understaffed 911 centers and Google should resolve it immediately, Ellison said in a letter to Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai .
“The city of Minneapolis reports that it is receiving thousands of additional inadvertent calls each month to its 911 center,” Ellison wrote in the letter. “Anoka County states it has experienced a significant spike in calls and is now fielding hundreds of inadvertent calls each day. Greater Minnesota, where the call centers are smaller, are also being inundated with inadvertent calls.”
Some 911 dispatchers started noticing the uptick in accidental calls in the first week of June, CBS Minnesota.
Happenings in Europe, too
The US state isn’t the only area dealing with accidental calls attributed to the new software. Police departments in Scotland and England are also blaming the update on a record number of 999 (the UK’s version of 911) calls in recent weeks, the BBC reported.
In some cases, 911 centers are getting calls from Android phone users who didn’t know they had activated the Emergency SOS feature, Ellison said. He noted a recent instance in Benton County where a cellphone dialed 911 repeatedly and the dispatcher answered but no one was on the line. The dispatcher hung up and tried to call the user back but wasn’t successful, Ellison said.
“It was later discovered a motorcyclist stored their wireless phone equipped with Google’s Android mobile operating system in the saddle bag of their motorcycle and had no idea the Emergency SOS function was triggered and repeatedly calling 911,” he said in the letter.
Redial the dispatcher, please
Ellison is also asking Minnesotans who noticed that their phone accidentally called 911 to redial the dispatcher and says it was a mistake. Otherwise, dispatchers will treat the call as an actual emergency and law enforcement could be sent to the phone’s location.
The Emergency SOS feature debuted in 2021 on Google’s Pixel cellphone and was later added to other Android-powered devices not made by Google. After the update, users can activate Emergency SOS by pressing the side button three times. Users have the option of turning off the feature in their phone’s setting menu.
Alphabet, Google’s parent company, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
A Google spokesperson told the BBC that mobile phone makers that offer the 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 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.”