Apple Watch Series 4’s new auto-911 calls after falls may face legal trouble

“Late last week, Apple released more details about how (with certain opt-in settings) the Apple Watch Series 4 will contact emergency services if the watch detects that you’ve had a hard fall,” Cyrus Farivar writes for Ars Technica. “Before actually contacting first responders, the Apple Watch will try to give numerous urgent alerts: tapping the wearer on the wrist, sounding of a very loud alarm, and also displaying a visual alert.”

“If the Apple Watch detects that the wearer is ‘immobile for about a minute,’ it begins a 15-second countdown. After that, the Watch will contact emergency services, which often can use mobile phone data to locate the wearer,” Farivar writes. “(Apple says that the feature is automatically enabled for users who have entered their age into their profile and are over 65.)”

Farivar writes, “Elizabeth Joh, a law professor at the University of California, Davis, was quick to point out that, by inviting the police into your home, Apple Watch wearers may be opening themselves up to criminal liability.”

“New York-based criminal-defense attorney Fred Jennings agreed with Joh,” Farivar writes. “He said that he would prefer if the wearer could automatically alert a relative or friend instead of the police.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: We agree with Jennings and would like to see Apple quickly add the option for users to enter their own preferred emergency contact instead of 911.


  1. Seems to me that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.

    While configuration options are good, the police/911 will respond barring some issue, will your emergency contact be as effective and reliable if your injured? I think thats debatable..

    1. Your cat knocks your watch off the charger while you’re away from home. Police respond, can’t get in, so they break in to ‘rescue you’. They aren’t gonna pay for that damage.

      And angry that they were called for no reason, they drop some coke and bust you for it, just because. If they don’t shoot you when you come home.

      1. Grrrilla — then the aliens will come and carry out an anal probe to look for something to save their dying planet. After which, Bigfoot will waltz in through the door the police broke down and eat all the food in your fridge. After which all the contents will slide out of your house and fall off the edge of the flat earth.

    2. I feel the same as macinfo. If you have nothing to hide, then why worry about this?

      The only people who need to worry about this are people doing criminal activities. So if you are a criminal I guess this feature is not for you. And quite frankly, if a criminal gets busted this way, then that’s a win for society.

      Now elderly parents, grandparents, etc….they will all benefit from this. This will save lives. Who cares if it catches a criminal? Is anyone going to cry that a criminal got caught?

      1. You seem ignorant of how many fairly harmless things people do that are technically “against the law.” And, how disproportionate the punishment is compared to the actual harm done (or complete lack thereof) by the person convicted. And, how easily someone can be coerced into accepting a plea deal when they would have a good shot at being acquitted, just because the prosecutor piled on really scary charges.

        There’s so much you don’t know about why a 4th Amendment (and other constitutional rights) is so important.

    3. I want you to remove all of your clothes so you are naked. Walk outside and down the street; You have nothing to hide so you have nothing to fear.

      Lesson in US Democracy: In the US, people have the right to hide stuff for no reason. The gov. needs probable cause to which you give it walking naked down the street.

    4. The Watch SOS function can be set up with custom emergency contacts !
      My wife’s number is set on mine. And one can have more than one number set!
      It is set in the Health App and the Watch App on the iPhones… Emergency SOS .

      But im not sure if this will also apply to fall detection?
      I think it should .. the setting of both are on the same tab in the Watch App on the iphone.
      Emergency SOS section.

  2. It’s a no win for Apple as usual, they will get sued if the watch alerts 911 and also if it does not.

    Lets say someone falls and the watch does not detect it and does not contact 911, the person or their family will sue Apple and say they have false advertising, and it will be all over CNN.

    Its best for Apple to distance themselves from these situations

    1. Apple started down this path themselves the moment they went into medical features and services. That’s where they want to be in, they have to consider and accept the legal scenarios that go with it.

  3. I can foresee instances where either option is appropriate. I’d like the option of EASILY being able to change settings on the fly using Siri. Maybe I do not want my watch to call 911 when I’m home with my family but do want it to call when I’m out cycling….

  4. Many Apple Watches users don’t even have cellular service for their watches. It would be impossible for the watch to dial a friend or relative. But the watch can always dial emergency responders.

  5. I had a bad fall in the woods. Multiple injuries, including a punctured lung. Was barely able to, painfully and slowly, get my phone out of my pocket – literally inch by inch. I would have been very happy if it had automatically called for me.

  6. If a user buys an Apple watch and activates the 911 feature, Apple, and the police, are free from liability.
    Also, 911 operators will exercise a predetermined set of options before sending police and paramedics.

    Good forbid that someone tries to save a life.

  7. Very nice post! Automotive industry is currently in revolution and these things has actually changed the game as you have mentioned here.I must say, these were some quite good updates.Thanks a lot! Keep up the good work as this is going to be very useful.

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