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Alert, Politics, Technology

First Presidential Alert Sent to US Cell Phones

Did you get the presidential alert Wednesday in the USA? Double check, you probably did. There is a strange claim in a tweet by anti-virus software engineer John McAfee that the presidential alert system gives “the government access to your phone.” but the fact checker for snopes, Alex Kasprak, a science writer with a masters degree in geological sciences, found no evidence of any such thing. Here’s the cyber security expert’s tweet:

With the push of a button and at the direction of President Donald Trump, a “Presidential Alert” was sent to all cellphones across America at 2:18 p.m. ET yesterday.

The message was the first test of what many are calling the “Presidential Alert” system, a new way to notify Americans across the country of national emergencies.

Here’s what it looked like, in case you were one of the few who didn’t get the alert, or you don’t have a cell phone:

On the West Coast the alert was at 11:18 AM.

At issue is even the existence of a E911 chip.

It is important to note that John McAfee didn’t make up the term E911. That is a real system. It stands for “Enhanced 911.”

It’s the system put in place by the FCC that allows law enforcement and emergency entities to access the GPS chip on your phone.

But according to the FCC, the system is only activated when someone calls 911. Then the cell providers must give a GPS location of the call to the emergency provider using the E911 system.

.. While E911 is real, it’s a system – not a “chip” as McAfee claimed. 

… The presidential alert test did not use E911. It used a different system, WEA, that sends information to cellphones. According to FEMA, “Cell-Broadcast is a one-way communications protocol.”

E911 is an unrelated system that is used to locate someone who has called 911. It uses phones built in GPS. There is no “E911 Chip.” 

Neither WEA nor E911 allows access to a consumers camera or microphone.


Okay. Why did McAfee say he took apart an E911 chip many times? Is “chip” just lingo for “system?” Weird.

A few New Yorkers are suing:

Donald Trump’s first ‘Presidential Alert,’ an unblockable wireless alert warning to cellphones in the United States, was deployed Wednesday at 11:18 a.m. PT/2:18 p.m. ET. No emergency, just testing. A group of New Yorkers are suing the President and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to stop the new practice, which many fear Trump will abuse.

(..) The plaintiffs’ main complaint is that Presidential Alerts are compulsory — there’s no way to opt-out of receiving them. They argue that under civil rights law, government cannot use cellular devices to compel listening, “trespass into and hijack” devices without a warrant or individual consent.

Via BoingBoing

My view: I prefer privacy and tend to agree that this alert should not be mandatory for those who don’t want to know about disasters and such.

Can anyone anywhere opt out of the presidential alerts? I’ve read no, but is there a way anyway?

The EAS is based upon the War Powers Act provision of the Communications Act of 1934, which provides for Presidential access to commercial communications during “a state of public peril or disaster or other national emergency.”  For WEA, the Warning, Alert, and Response Network (WARN) Act of 2006 provides that subscribers may opt out of receiving any wireless alerts “other than an alert issued by the President,” and that wireless alerting service should allow wireless subscribers the capability of opting out of receiving WEA alerts, other than an alert issued at the direction of the President and/or his/her designee.

Via FEMA.gov

And yet, some did not get the alert during this test. Here’s tweet and FEMA reply from someone using Verizon who did not get the alert.

Some digging turned up 6 ways to have not gotten the mandatory (some are enjoying using the word nonconsentual) Presidential Alert:

  1. Have an iPhone with an iOS prior to version 6.
  2. Have a non-WEA-capable phone, of which there are almost none.
  3. Be disconnected from your provider or in Airplane mode. When you take your phone out of airplane mode, you will get the message as long as it is still within the 30-minute test window, officials said.
  4. Be on the phone at the time. According to FEMA, WEA alerts will not interrupt your phone call. Instead, the message will be delayed and pushed to your phone once you hang up.
  5. Use a carrier that does not participate. The four major carriers, Sprint, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, take part in the WEA System. Most prepaid carriers participate in the system as well, but some smaller carriers may not. 
  6. Have your phone off or out of cell tower range. FEMA points out that phones must be powered on and within the range of a participating carrier’s cell tower to get a WEA message.

We don’t REALLY know about the security issues. We can only read differing claims and go with available evidence. Careful news followers and other non-trusting types may already assume all phones, laptops, internet connected devices and possibly even aspects of activity of human brains are tapped all the time. What can it hurt to believe this and to act accordingly?

Do what you can to fight for what you believe is right. Find your life rewards in helping others. Enjoy life while these good old days last in the New Improved Super Information Age.


About Xeno

E pluribus unum.


6 thoughts on “First Presidential Alert Sent to US Cell Phones

  1. It’s my understanding that this has been done by other administrations. I personally did not receive one. There is an opt out. I opted out days before.

    Posted by Tea and Tales1 | 6 Oct 2018, 1:53 pm
    • Hmm. I didn’t think I got it, but it was there when I looked. It’s not in your alerts/notices at all? Was that on Apple or a different phone? I know you can turn emergency alerts off in an iPhone, but also read that the Presidential Alerts are required to not be able to be turned off by the FCC.

      Posted by Xeno | 6 Oct 2018, 2:20 pm
      • No, I checked. I have the Samsung phone. I called my sister in Homeland Security and she told me to go to the FEMA site and opt out. I did. Trump already blocked me on Twitter so who knows.

        Posted by Tea and Tales1 | 7 Oct 2018, 8:21 am
      • I didn’t see the link at the FEMA site. Is the opt out link you used still there?

        Posted by Xeno | 7 Oct 2018, 8:42 am
      • No. They took it down 2 weeks ago. I checked for a friend. I live in tornado alley and came from the coast of Mississippi. I’m fairly sure I will know about an emergency before FEMA or the President.

        Posted by Tea and Tales1 | 7 Oct 2018, 8:47 am
      • Awesome that you got off the list while it was possible.

        Posted by Xeno | 7 Oct 2018, 8:59 am

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