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Cellphones Government Handhelds Privacy United States Your Rights Online

Cellphones Get Government Chips For Disaster Alert 374

Jeremiah Cornelius writes "The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Julius Genachowski, said the Commercial Mobile Alert System that Congress approved in 2006 will direct messages to cellphones in case of a terrorist attack, natural disaster, or other serious emergency. There will be at least three levels of messages, ranging from a critical national alert from the president to warnings about impending or occurring national disasters to alerts about missing or abducted children. The alert would show up on the phone's front screen, instead of the traditional text message inbox, and arrive with a distinct ring and probably a vibration. People will be able to opt out of receiving all but the presidential alerts."
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Cellphones Get Government Chips For Disaster Alert

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  • by billstewart ( 78916 ) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @06:49PM (#36088410) Journal

    More seriously, it's kind of annoying that the system for telling you to turn around and run away because of tornadoes or nuclear explosions or big car accidents or whatever requires you to read texts while driving. (I can't do that - I need to wear my reading glasses to read texts, and need to not wear them to be able to drive.) I hope they'll also use the Emergency Broadcast System if they're playing games with texts. And it's annoying that you can turn off local emergency alerts (which you might actually need to receive), but can't turn off texts from the President (which are either about Nuclear War, in which case a text message is rather too late, or else they're political spam.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @06:54PM (#36088464)

    And you people still think the terrorists haven't won?

  • by mr100percent ( 57156 ) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @06:59PM (#36088540) Homepage Journal

    Smacks of V for Vendetta to me. "You designed it, sir, you wanted it foolproof. You said every television in London!"

  • by Lead Butthead ( 321013 ) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @07:00PM (#36088554) Journal

    actually, I fully expect the system will be hijacked to disseminate spam within hours after going live.

  • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @07:02PM (#36088568)
    I have only one question: Will this standard be open for public inspection?
  • by Joe The Dragon ( 967727 ) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @07:04PM (#36088604)

    Will txt and data rates apply? roaming fees?

  • Disable it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sv_libertarian ( 1317837 ) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @07:10PM (#36088656) Journal
    Wonder if there will be an easy way to disable the chip without ruining the whole phone, or perhaps in Android at least a software hack to completely turn it off. I don't want to get messages from .gov on my hardware without consenting to it.
  • Tinfoil hat time (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @07:20PM (#36088724)
    I wonder what other "features" this chip will have. In the land of the free, you are free to do as you are told.
  • by wkk2 ( 808881 ) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @07:24PM (#36088764)

    The messages need to be digitally signed or we are going to get spam claiming to be from the president. It also needs to be better designed than weather radios. For example, I can turn off thunderstorm watch alerts but not tornado watch alerts. I might understand requiring warnings but not watches. It cries wolf, in the middle of hot muggy nights, so often it gets turned off.

  • by $RANDOMLUSER ( 804576 ) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @07:24PM (#36088766)
    No shit. We have a "Department of Homeland Security" (without irony) cranking out this kind of shit every day. Because we must protect Der Vaterland from unnamed (foreign and domestic) evil menaces who want to kill us all. Hey, at least the Terror Level is permanently (only) "orange". I'm afraid if it ever gets to "red" we're going to have to start rounding up Japs, Jews and Gypsies - or at least keep a really really really close eye on them.
  • Re:What the? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @07:25PM (#36088778) Journal

    Sure, it sounds a bit unnecessary, but it does no harm if unused and is potentially helpful if it is used

    Unless we have the blueprint of the chip and a copy of the sourcode it is running, you don't really know what harm it might do.

    Call me paranoid, but after the warrantless wireless scandal, I'm not at all inclined to trust the government when it comes to our communications network.

  • No legitimate use (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Man ( 684 ) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @07:35PM (#36088856) Homepage

    Can anyone come up with an example of a "national disaster" (i.e., a disaster affecting most or all of the contiguous United States) in which any significant part of the telephone network would still be functioning? Because I can't. All sub-extinction-level disasters are inherently regional and nearly all are local. As an example, Japan just suffered a colossal earthquake and 15-meter tsunami... and yet despite the catastrophic loss of life and property, nearly all major damage is confined to a few prefectures; many parts of the country didn't even feel it. And Japan is about the size of California.

    But go ahead, prove me wrong: come up with a disaster that takes out Miami and Seattle but leaves the phones intact.

  • by rainmouse ( 1784278 ) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @07:52PM (#36088982)

    The presidential ones could also be about NY, California or DC.

    Or from a different source altogether. I bet hackers are already desperate to break into this system and issue world wide zombie apocalypse warnings!

  • Re:What the? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @10:06PM (#36089798)
    I'd see a separate vector against iconoclasts. Imagine if jailbreaking your phone was a federal felony because it could be used to block the required messages. Who needs to persecute some jailbreak groups if you can get the government to bust them for you and put them in jail, in addition to ordering the reparations you wanted.
  • by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 ) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @10:23PM (#36089870)
    People must think carefully about the power the government is giving itself there. I'm not saying people should be against it, just that if they approve of it they should at least realize the implications of this.

    The problem is...whatever power you give to this current government you like, you also give to the next government you don't like.
    And governments evolve and change. In the US, lately we've had Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama. Give Clinton some power, and its still there for Bush the Lesser to abuse. Grant Bush something, and its still there for Obama to use/abuse as he sees fit.

    Be wary of giving too much power to whatever current guy you like. The next guy may not use it to your liking.
  • by kmoser ( 1469707 ) on Wednesday May 11, 2011 @12:36AM (#36090406)

    And I wouldn't worry about political spam. The first administration that abuses it for that purpose will be thrown out of office in no time at all.

    Right. Because even far more egregious abuses of power, such as unconstitutional, warrantless search and seizure, have always resulted in the current ruling party being thrown out in a timely fashion.

Friction is a drag.