Rockdale’s Constitutional Corner: Google Home hears domestic dispute and calls cops
By Ruth A. Wilson | Clerk of Superior Court

December 14, 20173min1730
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By Ruth A. Wilson | Clerk of Superior Court

Originally posted in the Richard Zorza Access to Justice Blog July 8, 2017

By Ruth A. Wilson

Rockdale Clerk of Courts

We, at the Rockdale Clerk of Courts Office, are clear about our Purpose in service to the Courts and to the Public: Preserving the Past While Preparing for the Future. We spend a lot of time actively educating ourselves on emerging court technologies and at the same time staying abreast of the rapidly changing demands of the law, the public and evolving social norms. It is a never-ending challenge. Following is a somewhat humorous example of how we need to be prepared for unintended consequences as we travel this road.

This is the stuff of dreams and nightmares. According to All That Is, as reported by ABC News: A New Mexico man, Eduardo Barros was house- sitting at a home in Tijeras with his girlfriend and her daughter this past Sunday.

Barros then got into a fight with his girlfriend, and things grew violent. At some point, he allegedly threatened her with a gun, saying: “Did you call the sheriffs?” However, the home that the couple was occupying had an active smart home device running inside.

The Google Home misinterpreted Barros’ threat as a voice command, and called 911. When the police heard the altercation over the phone, they immediately rushed over with a SWAT team. After a long standoff, the police were able to capture Barros.

But the general point is that it would be possible to have smart devices, including phones, set to summon help, in pre-determined situations.

You can imagine an interface in which the user says yes or no to calling the police upon certain words or phrases used, or a level of shaking, or a combination of shaking and a voice, etc. You could imagine a cancel system.

The world will not wait for the courts. We need to understand these implications for Legal Education, Court Administration and Staffing, Court Case Management Systems, Rules of

Court, Judicial Process and last, but not least, Access to Justice. Stay tuned. We are just getting started.

Throughout each month, the clerk of courts, tax commissioner, sheriff and probate judge—Rockdale’s elected constitutional officers—discuss topics relevant to their respective roles.

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