Sunday, September 24, 2023
HomeTechnologyAndroid Emergency Call Shortcut senders are flooded with fake calls

Android Emergency Call Shortcut senders are flooded with fake calls

British police forces are witnessing a “record number” of false calls to 999, the UK’s emergency services number, and the culprit is apparently Android. As the BBC reports, Android 12 has added an easy access feature for emergency services: just press the power button five times, and your phone will call emergency services for you. It seems pretty easy to do this by accident when the phone is sitting in your pocket, or if you have a wonky power button, which adds to the occasional completely silent calls for emergency dispatch.

National Police Chiefs Council chirp Earlier this month, “Nationally, all emergency services are currently seeing a record 999 calls. There are several reasons for this, but we believe one with a significant impact is the update of Android smartphones.” The BBC report says one department “received 169 silent 999 calls between 00:00 and 19:00 GMT on Sunday alone”. In response to these latest complaints, Google says it’s working on a fix with the Android OEM.

The funny thing is, Android 12 — and its easy emergency calling feature — came out a year and a half ago. thanks for the unique (uniquely bad) The way Android rolls out, the feature is now hitting enough people to become a national problem. Google’s Pixel devices get new Android updates instantly, but everyone else can take months or years to get new versions of Android because it’s up to your device manufacturer to create new, custom Android builds for every device ever released. When this came to Pixel devices in 2021, it was immediately reported as an issue by some people, with one Reddit post calling it “severe.” Since then, there has been a steady stream of posts warning people about it.

Samsung shows how to disable Emergency SOS, but Samsung phones don't seem to have it "on / off" switch at the top.

Samsung shows how to disable Emergency SOS, but Samsung phones don’t seem to have an “on/off” switch at the top.

Until a patch is released, Google’s current recommendation is to turn the feature off. Easier said than done. Many Android manufacturers like to mix up settings, which makes online tutorials difficult, so your best bet might be to search the system settings for “Emergency SOS”. On Samsung and Pixel phones, there should be a top-level Security & Emergency page in System Settings that will take you to the Emergency SOS settings. While Samsung has a settings page for this feature, some users reported that the page doesn’t actually have a “shutdown” switch. Some of the Galaxy S23 and S22 designs let you control things, like whether an emergency SOS should sound a warning, but you can’t actually turn off the power button shortcut.

Like everything with Android, Google told the BBC that it’s up to manufacturers to decide how and when the Emergency SOS feature works, even though it’s Google that developed it. The company says, “To help these manufacturers prevent unintentional emergency calls on their devices, Android is providing them with additional guidance and resources. We expect device manufacturers to release updates for their users that address this issue soon. Users who continue to experience this issue should turn off the emergency service.” SOS in the next two days. When Android patches take months or years to reach the masses, Google’s claim that this will be fixed in “two days” sounds… optimistic?

This isn’t the first time that easy-to-access emergency call features have flooded local call centers. The Apple Watch triggered an automatic emergency call feature when the watch detected too many G-forces, and in the US, this resulted in 911 being “flooded” with false distress calls from people skating or on roller coasters. When Google shipped a similar feature on the Pixel Watch earlier this year, the company talked about how much work it was doing in stopping accidental calls, but the Android phone feature didn’t seem to have received much scrutiny. That’s still better than crashing every time you call 911, at least.



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