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Android SOS Feature Blamed For Influx Of False Emergency Calls

A feature on Android phones that was designed to help users contact emergency service has been blamed the police in the UK for an influx of false emergencies that were received in recent weeks, largely linked to the Emergency SOS feature.

Scottish and English police are reporting a huge number of silent or abandoned called since the release of an Android update between October last year and February, that introduced an Emergency SOS calling feature.

It was reported that each false call took around 20 minutes to deal with as the emergency operators had to make sure no one was on the other side of the line unable to verbally communicate their situation.

This feature allows the quick contact of emergency service just by pressing the device power button multiple times. Easy to perform accidentally, which has caused an influx of “butt dialed” false emergencies.

Earlier this month it was highlighted that users can disable the feature to help emergency responders in their jobs.

“Calls to 999 (000 in the UK) 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.”

This feature was released along with Android 12 on Google Pixel phones in 2021, and was designed to make it easier to call emergency services is the user is unable to physically dial.

Although it has been available for almost two years, it has taken a while to arrive on Android phone brands as the manufacturers are responsible for rolling out the feature with customisations.

Google responded to the situation, stating the phone manufacturers are responsible for offering the feature and managing how it works on devices.

“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.”

To be able to disable the feature, users can go to the device’s settings and search for “Emergency SOS.” Then they need to toggle the switch to “off.”

The issue of an influx in false emergencies has come from Scotland, the UK, across Europe and Canada so far.

Apple has also recently had similar issues with its emergency calling, including the Crash Detection feature on iPhone 14, where it was activated while users rode rollercoasters.

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