The always-listening feature of smart speakers may be considered by some as an invasion of privacy, but in an incident involving such a device in New Mexico, it helped break up a domestic violence case before it took a turn for the worse.
The smart home device, earlier reported as the Google Home but later updated as the device was apparently a different one, informed authorities of an assault case, allowing the police to step in and rescue a woman and her daughter.
Smart Speaker Calls Police In Domestic Violence Case
According to an ABC News report, Eduardo Barros was house-sitting on the evening of July 2 with his girlfriend and her daughter in a residence in Tijeras, New Mexico, when the couple engaged in a heated argument.
The argument eventually led to a physical altercation. Barros allegedly threatened to kill his girlfriend with a firearm, asking her “Did you call the sheriffs?”
A smart speaker unit, connected to a surround sound system wired around the house, picked up Barros’s question as a voice command and promptly called 911, according to Deputy Felicia Romero, the spokesperson for the Bernalillo County Sheriff Department.
Police officers responded to the call, arriving at the house and rescuing the woman and her daughter. Barros’s girlfriend sustained physical injuries, but the daughter was found to be unharmed. A crisis negotiation team and a SWAT team were eventually able to arrest Barros after a standoff that lasted for hours.
Smart Speakers Fighting Against Crime
According to the authorities, the smart speaker played a significant role that may have saved the life of the woman and her daughter.
“This amazing technology definitely helped save a mother and her child from a very violent situation,” said Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales III.
The incident follows a case from late last year when Bentonville, Arkansas, authorities requested access to Amazon Echo data to help solve a murder. Who knew that smart speakers, capable of searching for information and placing online orders, could also help against crime?
Such instances, however, also remind users that smart speakers are always on, which may cause inconveniences such as wrongly ordered dollhouses and concerns on privacy.
Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to prevent smart speakers from behaving in manners that do not sit well with users. The devices can play audible sounds while recording and can be programmed to only activate upon hearing passcodes. There is also the option of turning their microphones off, but doing that defeats the purpose of getting a smart speaker in the first place.