Was Amazon's Alexa Responsible For Dialing 911 During Violent Assault?

Amazon's virtual home assistant, Alexa, has been credited with saving a woman and her child from a violent assault. However, this may not have been the case.

As if straight out of an episode of "Black Mirror," there's a story making its rounds in the media in which an Amazon Echo saved a woman and her daughter from a violent assault by dialing 911, The New York Times reported.

Milana Honorio was house-sitting her parents' home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with her boyfriend, Eduardo Barros. Honorio received a text and Barros jumped to conclusions and began accusing her of cheating. Grabbing his gun, he hit Honorio in the face and kicked her repeatedly. He threatened to kill her if she called the sheriff.

Authorities thought that Barros prompted Alexa to call 911 with his threat. On the 911 recording, Honorio can be heard saying, "Alexa, call 911."

But no one really knows if it actually did — or if it even can.

On Tuesday, Honorio told The New York Times that 911 was called by Alexa "along with the home phone system."

She only said that after being pressed by Amazon, which in addition to a national 911 association called NENA 9-1-1 Association, doubt that the smart home gadget has the capabilities to actually do so. 


In order to make a call with Alexa, Amazon's virtual assistant, the receiving end would also have to have Alexa set up, so third-party calls are currently impossible with it. Alexa also wouldn't be able to just call the cops, unless you had "cops" as a contact in your phone, the director of Interactive Media Studies at Miami University told The New York Times.

And before she can even do anything, Alexa has to be prompted with a "wake word," so it's impossible that "did you call the sheriff" actually made Alexa dial 911. 

Calling with Alexa is different than calling with Siri. In fact, there are cases when Siri has allegedly called 911, which saved someone's life. 

In Honorio's case, whether or not Alexa actually is a hero, the authorities managed eventually to arrest Barros — after a six-hour standoff, CNET reported. Her child remained unharmed, CBS News reported. 

According to CNET, Amazon declined to comment when asked if Alexa would soon receive an emergency calling system following this incident. 

Thumbnail/banner image credit: Flickr user Guillermo Fernandes

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