UK police want you to report crimes to Alexa


The Amazon Echo Plus — one of the company’s many smart speakers featuring the digital assistant Alexa.

Ian Knighton/CNET

Officer Alexa is reporting for duty with police in England.

Amazon’s digital assistant will start working more closely with law enforcement in Lancashire, a county with a population of nearly 1.5 million in northwest England. As first announced at the UK’s College of Policing Conference in January and reported by TechSpot, the first integration is an Alexa skill that includes local crime reports in your daily briefings.

Alexa, the digital assistant popularized by smart speakers such as the Amazon Echo, features apps you access with your voice called “skills.” You can give a voice command to an Echo to control your smart home, search the web and set a timer. The police force worked with Amazon to develop the skill, and the next step will go even further. Soon, Lancastrians might also be able to talk to Alexa to report a crime, although Amazon says it does not currently allow Alexa skills to contact emergency services.

That integration will launch by year’s end, The Intercept reports. The idea is to make it easier for people to report crimes and reduce the burden on emergency call centers. Rob Flanagan, the force’s innovation manager, also reportedly told the conference that he hopes for a separate police-specific Alexa skill that would allow detectives to access warrants with a voice command to make their jobs easier.

These integrations raise privacy concerns, as storing reports with Amazon could make it harder to anonymously report crimes, civil liberties experts told The Intercept. The integration also has cybersecurity implications, with Amazon potentially storing more sensitive information than your daily commands and questions.

“The Flash Briefing skill referenced was developed by a third party to provide local updates from the Lancashire police,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement. “At this time, we do not allow Alexa skills to contact emergency services.” 

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