Man Behind Bars After His Voice Recognition Device Heard Him, Called The Cops

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RWC News Man Behind Bars After His Voice Recognition Device Heard Him, Called The Cops

Eduardo Barros was arrested after his Alexa voice-activated, virtual assistant called the police during an attack on his girlfriend.

Many people feel threatened by having their motions monitored and recorded. John Grisham’s decades old book “The Firm” presented a scary situation related to listening devices, but he probably never knew how soon the reality would take hold.

In a surreal case of personal observation, a New Mexico man is behind bars after being reported to police by his Amazon Alexa device. Although there is some controversy surrounding the exact occurrence, it seems fairly clear that the electronic device acted independently and contacted police without specific instruction. At least, that’s what is being claimed by reports that are calling it an electronic miracle.

While house sitting in Tijeras, Eduardo Barros became violent with his girlfriend. She apparently received a text that infuriated him, and he started beating her for suspected cheating. She and her daughter were rescued when police were somehow notified.

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Original reports say that the Alexa home assistant device somehow heard Barros yelling asking his girlfriend if she had called the “sheriffs.” Accordingly, the smart device interpreted the command and called 911. However, Google Home says that it was impossible.

RWC News Man Behind Bars After His Voice Recognition Device Heard Him, Called The Cops

The Amazon device isn’t supposed to be able to contact 911, but apparently it somehow did just that last week while a man was beating and threatening to kill his girlfriend.

Alexa has been the subject of a number of Internet videos showing the device shutting down when asked if it works for the CIA. The incident this month may have added some credence to conspiracy theorists who believe that it is a tool for spying on customers.

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A spokesperson from the company explained that although there are devices that will be able to contact authorities soon, they have not yet been released to the public. Amazon also confirmed that the voice assistant Alexa does not support calling 911, nor does the phone and messaging service allow third-party connections.

In fact, there’s a Skills policy that disallows developers from including the emergency calling features. Therefore, many people are wondering exactly how were police contacted.

The Bernalillo County Sheriff, Manuel Gonzalez III told reporters that the technology had possibly saved a life. When the assault turned physical, the virtual assistant recognized a command and performed it.

According to police reports Barros grabbed a gun and threatened to kill his girlfriend after seeing the text on her phone. During the altercation, he asked, “Did you call the sheriffs?”

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Felicia Romero, a deputy with the department, confirmed the 911 call, but it is unclear whether the speaker was connected to an Echo or Echo Dot device. The Alexa assistant was connected to the land line, but it isn’t supposed to act on its own.

Barros told his girlfriend that she wouldn’t escape. The affidavit said that when 911 returned the call to the woman’s phone, Barros saw the caller ID and threw her to the ground. He then proceeded to kick her face and stomach approximately 10 times.

RWC News Man Behind Bars After His Voice Recognition Device Heard Him, Called The Cops

Both Google Home and Amazon spokespersons confirmed that Alexa is not programmed to call 911. No one claims to know why the device acted the way it did to save Barros’ girlfriend and young daughter.

Barros also told the victim that he wouldn’t go back to jail, even though she knew he was a felon, and also expressed disbelief over the call.

Police arrived and got the woman and her daughter to safety before Barros could inflict further damage. He remained holed up in the home until a crisis negation and SWAT teams arrived.

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Although no one clearly understands how the smart device contacted the authorities, it certainly helped one woman escape an attack. New evidence hasn’t determined why the device acted the way it did, but it has come to light that the couple were watching an Amazon movie at the time.

RWC News Man Behind Bars After His Voice Recognition Device Heard Him, Called The Cops

There have been a number of controversies about whether smart devices are spying on consumers. The Alexa event has encouraged that possibility.

If that’s the case, it seems horridly terrifying that Amazon could be recording and monitoring the private activities of its customers. In this case, it happened to be a blessing, but the circumstances are enough to make privacy advocates, and anyone who values their confidentiality, shake with apprehension.

The idea that a private company could be using personal information, conversations, and activities for whatever reason is a scary revelation. The possibility seems to belong to the realm of science fiction, but the very real instance in New Mexico is making people think twice about the Alexa tool.

Barros was arrested and taken into custody that evening. He’s being held without bail on a number of charges including possession of a firearm, aggravated battery, and false imprisonment.

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Emma Laftchu
I began reporting for RWC News on October 12th of 2016. Prior to that I was a reporter for WOKR Radio.

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