We’re gradually learning that smart home devices can be quite valuable for police. Following a recent case in which Amazon handed over data from its Echo device to police investigating a murder, a smart device called the police when a couple was allegedly involved in a violent domestic dispute. [See correction below]
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According to ABC News, officers were called to a home outside Albuquerque, New Mexico this week when a smart device called 911 and the operator heard a confrontation in the background. Police say that Eduardo Barros was house-sitting at the residence with his girlfriend and their daughter. Barros allegedly pulled a gun on his girlfriend when they got into an argument and asked her: “Did you call the sheriffs?” A smart device in the home apparently heard “call the sheriffs,” and proceeded to call the sheriffs.
A SWAT team arrived at the home and after negotiating for hours, they were able to take Barros into custody. Police tell ABC News that the man’s girlfriend was injured but did not need to visit a hospital. The couple’s daughter was safe and unharmed.
“The unexpected use of this new technology to contact emergency services has possibly helped save a life,” Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales III said in a statement.
Barros was charged with possession of a firearm or destructive device by a felon, aggravated battery against a household member, aggravated assault against a household member and false imprisonment.
While smart home technology is the hero in the case, it will certainly leave some people uneasy. It’s a clear reminder that smart home devices are always listening. We don’t know what data, if any, was recorded by the Amazon Echo that was involved in the December murder case. But police felt confident enough that it may have recorded audio of the incident to seek a warrant.
In a different incident in January, a local TV news broadcast involving a dollhouse reportedly triggered multiple Amazon Echo devices in the area to start ordering dollhouses. It’s easy to imagine police getting tired of being called to citizen’s homes every time they watch the latest episode of Law and Order.
Correction: ABC News has amended and editor’s note to its story clarifying that the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department did not specify the type of smart device that called them to the home. An earlier version of this post cited ABC’s story and claimed a Google Home called police.