Lancashire Police are investigating whether smart speakers like Amazon Echo could be used to collect reports from the public and to disseminate information on crime.
Specifically, it is thought that the use of AI assistants could allow people to file crime reports and witness statements from their own home, reducing the strain on 999 call centres and on officers.
According to The Daily Mail, the force’s innovation lead came up with the idea while using Amazon Alexa to read nursery rhymes to his daughter and believes it could become a reality by the end of the year.
Rob Flanagan reportedly told the College of Policing conference that polices forces across the UK could also send images of missing people, information on murder appeals and the phone numbers of on-duty police officers to smartphones.
Smart speakers are becoming increasingly popular in both the consumer and business worlds, with Google Home, Amazon Echo and the future Apple HomePod all competing in the space.
Amazon has opened up its Alexa platform to business late last year. The thinking is that office workers will be to utilise Echo speakers to set up meetings, book conference rooms, report equipment problems, access the company calendar or sales figures, and other work-related tasks.
However the use of Echo by police would raise significant privacy concern as data collected would be transmitted and stored in the US.
Last December, police in the US state of Arkansas demanded access to Echo audio data recorded during a murder. Amazon resisted handing over the data, but eventually gave the police the information in March this year.
Separately, security researchers have previously discovered vulnerabilities that could allow attackers to record and stream conversations. This could undermine confidentiality and trust in the police’s activities.
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