Social media prank prompts accidental 911 calls through Apple's Siri

Posted:
in iPhone edited June 2015
A social media prank is likely responsible for a rash of Siri-based 911 calls made over the weekend in the Canadian city of Regina, Saskatchewan, local police said on Tuesday.

via CBC
via CBC


On Sunday morning alone, regional emergency services received 114 hang-up calls to 911 in a span of just two hours, the CBC reported. In an official statement, police blamed a meme circulating on networks like Twitter and Facebook, asking people to say "9/11" to Siri, referring to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.

Siri is believed to have interpreted the messages as a command to dial 911, connecting iPhone owners with real operators who they then quickly hung up on, presumably out of panic.

The issue is being treated as serious, as local 911 services are required to call back on such hang-ups, preventing them from responding to real emergencies. In some instances an operator could have to call back several times to be sure there's no actual crisis.

Although Apple has worked to improve Siri since it was integrated into iOS, it remains the subject of jokes about its occasional misinterpretations -- or literal interpretations -- of voice commands.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 25
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,070member
    People are so stupid.
  • Reply 2 of 25
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member

    Apple better fix this quickly with 9/11 approaching. It was only a couple years ago that they allowed Siri to dial 911 after some blind people could not reach emergency service because they only knew how to ask Siri to call the phone numbers they needed and never used the keypad.

  • Reply 3 of 25
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 1,059member
    Damned if you do, Damned if you don't
  • Reply 4 of 25
    jsewelljsewell Posts: 12member
    I've been waiting for a shock jock to do something similar to this live on-the-air. Most people drive with their iPhones plugged into DC power, and if they have Siri set to respond to "hey siri", this could be a problem.
  • Reply 5 of 25

    Is the problem just that people aren't hanging up fast enough when they realize Siri is dialing the emergency number?  Or does the phone company put aborted calls thru anyway "just to be safe", thus giving the operators the impression of a hangup? 



    If it's the former, the obvious first solution Apple can implement is to make the "cancel" and "call" buttons on that screen much larger and bolder so that people needn't reach for eye glasses to read it (thus delaying their response).  Another example of Apple's TOO SMALL TEXT causing real problems!

  • Reply 6 of 25
    analogjackanalogjack Posts: 1,043member

    Obviously this only happens if someone just says 'nine, eleven' and nothing else. It's not going to happen with a genuine enquiry using more words that is then clearly about the terrorist attacks. Therefore if only 'nine, eleven' is said, then Siri has not choice but to put the call through as an emergency call. The problem is not with Siri, it's with imbeciles.

     

    Or they could just use a better number...

     

    image 

  • Reply 7 of 25
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 1,814member

    Those darn Terrorists!!! Couldn't they do their thing on 9/10 or 9/12 instead as to not screw up the 911 system like this!!!  Maybe that was their plan all along.  They saw this coming.  

  • Reply 8 of 25
    robin huberrobin huber Posts: 3,188member
    Good thing this didn't happen in Europe. The EU would have heavily fined Apple and banned Siri.
  • Reply 9 of 25
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 1,814member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AnalogJack View Post

     

    Obviously this only happens if someone just says 'nine, eleven' and nothing else. It's not going to happen with a genuine enquiry using more words that is then clearly about the terrorist attacks. Therefore if only 'nine, eleven' is said, then Siri has not choice but to put the call through as an emergency call. The problem is not with Siri, it's with imbeciles.

     

    Or they could just use a better number...

     

    image 


     

    Why not change it where you have to say Phone 911 or Call 911.  That type of thing and not just assume right off the bat 911 means to call 911.  Even say "call for help" would dial 911.  

  • Reply 10 of 25
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,548member
    Is the problem just that people aren't hanging up fast enough when they realize Siri is dialing the emergency number?  Or does the phone company put aborted calls thru anyway "just to be safe", thus giving the operators the impression of a hangup? 


    If it's the former, the obvious first solution Apple can implement is to make the "cancel" and "call" buttons on that screen much larger and bolder so that people needn't reach for eye glasses to read it (thus delaying their response).  Another example of Apple's [SIZE=8px]TOO SMALL TEXT[/SIZE] causing real problems!

    Once you submit the call, it goes through. It's best to stay on the line when that happens and explain yourself.
  • Reply 11 of 25
    sessamoidsessamoid Posts: 182member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by jsewell View Post



    I've been waiting for a shock jock to do something similar to this live on-the-air. Most people drive with their iPhones plugged into DC power, and if they have Siri set to respond to "hey siri", this could be a problem.

    Even most shock jocks aren't this stupid. That kind of stunt will land them in the state prison, maybe federal if it crosses state lines. Prank calling 911 is a crime. Causing a mass overload of 911 services is a BIG crime.

  • Reply 12 of 25
    I remember when 9-1-1 was first implemented. The TV ads promoted it as nine-eleven, which over-estimated the intelligence of a lot of people, who, in panic, tried to dial, only to be thwarted in doing so because they couldn't find the "eleven" on their phone... Since that public disaster, the advertising has always referred to the emergency number as 9-1-1.

    Siri has now proven to have more native intelligence than a lot of North Americans who couldn't make that mental leap...
  • Reply 13 of 25
    jason98jason98 Posts: 755member
    eriamjh wrote: »
    People are so stupid.

    Especially those who "follow" someone or something in social networks.
  • Reply 14 of 25
    "OK Google, find goatse." (Warning: NSFW)
  • Reply 15 of 25
    As a concerned 9-1-1 Director in Los Angeles County, it is these types of instances that really cause public-safety harm. People need to realize that once they dial 9-1-1 the call will be passed through the phone system immediately whether wired or wireless. For wireless phones the phone number is associated with the person's latitude/longitude giving 9-1-1 call takers a fairly accurate (within 300 meters) location of the caller.

    If the caller is not on the line and has hung up before a 9-1-1 call taker can answer the call it is considered an "unsupervised" and abandoned call. Generally those calls do not cause a problem because the call taker never receives a ring notification. But they can still be reviewed or called back if needed as we capture that information through other means.

    For those instances where a call does arrive to the 9-1-1 center and the caller has hung up, these are known as "supervised" but abandoned 9-1-1 calls. This situation REQUIRES a 9-1-1 call taker to call back the individual who abandoned the call to ensure that they truly don't have an emergency. This action ties up a 9-1-1 call taker from answering truly emergent phone calls and potentially could cause delay for life threatening medical, property or crime incidents.

    Recommendation: Always stay on the line and simply state to the call taker that it is an error in calling 9-1-1. This will save time, effort, and potentially someone's life.
  • Reply 16 of 25
    jimdreamworxjimdreamworx Posts: 1,063member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JBDragon View Post

     

     

    Why not change it where you have to say Phone 911 or Call 911.  That type of thing and not just assume right off the bat 911 means to call 911.  Even say "call for help" would dial 911.  


     

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AnalogJack View Post

     

    Or they could just use a better number...

     

    image 


     

    I have often wondered why 911 was chosen.  Mostly due to the protocol of 411, 611, etc.

     

    I wonder if 999 is a bit too easy to dial.  Obviously if you say it to Siri it is less of an accident.

    Any stats on misdials elsewhere in the world?

     

    Oh, and I don't know if it's widely known, but if you accidentally dial 911, DO NOT HANG UP IN A PANIC.

    Just tell the person that you dialed it by accident.  Otherwise you are a priority to the system.

     

    I worked at a place where you had to dial 9 to get an outside line.  And then if someone made a long distance call that starts with a 1...

    Well, if they are heavy fingered, you get the idea.  We had one too many responders show up during a month, but they couldn't block us.

    My IT Director asked if I could block 911 on the phone system.  ARE YOU SERIOUS?

    Eventually, we changed the outside line to 8 to alleviate this problem.

  • Reply 17 of 25
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    My little sister told me about this last night. She's always onto the latest trends. I didn't know it was a social network prank though.
  • Reply 18 of 25
    I personally think Australia may have the stupidest emergency number in the world. 000

    Many offices require you to dial 0 to get a line out.
    To dial internationally from Australia you dial 0011 before the country code.

    Try dialing Internatioanlly from home when your fingers thing they are in the office? 0 0011...
    Of course everything after the 000 is ignored because you're already being connected to emergency services.
  • Reply 19 of 25
    tdknoxtdknox Posts: 64member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by JimDreamworx View Post

     

     

     

    I have often wondered why 911 was chosen.  Mostly due to the protocol of 411, 611, etc.

     

    I wonder if 999 is a bit too easy to dial.  Obviously if you say it to Siri it is less of an accident.

    Any stats on misdials elsewhere in the world?

     

    Oh, and I don't know if it's widely known, but if you accidentally dial 911, DO NOT HANG UP IN A PANIC.

    Just tell the person that you dialed it by accident.  Otherwise you are a priority to the system.

     

    I worked at a place where you had to dial 9 to get an outside line.  And then if someone made a long distance call that starts with a 1...

    Well, if they are heavy fingered, you get the idea.  We had one too many responders show up during a month, but they couldn't block us.

    My IT Director asked if I could block 911 on the phone system.  ARE YOU SERIOUS?

    Eventually, we changed the outside line to 8 to alleviate this problem.


     

    It was chosen because of rotary phones.

     

    Remember kiddies, way back when the POTS system was first implemented, it used electrical impulses (often described as "clicks") to tell the switching equipment what numbers to connect to. So the first phones that didn't need a human operator to connect the call used a rotary dial to send the right number of impulses for each number.

     

    In this scenario, the 9 and the 1 are as far apart as possible (you could not and still cannot to this day start a phone number with 0 or 1), so 9-1-1 was chosen as it was the least likely to be misdialed on a rotary phone. You would have to *want* to call that number to call it.

     

    See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotary_dial for more information.

  • Reply 20 of 25
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Robin Huber View Post



    Good thing this didn't happen in Europe. The EU would have heavily fined Apple and banned Siri.



    You just gave some troll an idea...

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