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Cellphones Get Government Chips For Disaster Alert

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the shouldn't-the-opt-out-go-the-other-way? dept.

Cellphones 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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No Texting While Driving! (5, Funny)

billstewart (78916) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088356)

Yes, Officer, I was just reading this text while I was driving because it might have been from the PRESIDENT!

Re:No Texting While Driving! (4, Insightful)

billstewart (78916) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088410)

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.)

Re:No Texting While Driving! (1)

haystor (102186) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088528)

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

Re:No Texting While Driving! (1)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088754)

natural selection will solve the reading glasses while driving problem.

Re:No Texting While Driving! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36088832)

You forgot a terrorist announcement asking us all to revolt.

Re:No Texting While Driving! (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36088862)

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.

That's because these people are obviously not techies, so they're using/mandating overly-specific techs, instead of doing what any programmer would do: an abstract important-message notification interface.

It's none of government's fucking business whether an important message is implemented as a text on a tiny handheld display which happens to sometimes be used as a phone, or voice-synthesizer fed into the car's stereo, or an exclamation mark icon on the HUD where if I stare at it while generating "What's this?" brainwaves, becomes text which is preemptable by anything the car's radar sees as an obstacle which I may be about to collide with.

Just send the damn packets and quit worrying about what I do with them. Yes, that means you won't be able to force me to abstain from spamfiltering the president. So fucking what. If I'm stupid enough to not care where the ICBMs are predicted to land, that's my problem. The very idea that someone in government thinks they have the right to control opt-out settings is outrageous. These are the kinds of assholes that are legitimizing DRM and other fuck-the-user-we-know-what's-best crap.

Re:No Texting While Driving! (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088940)

(which are either about Nuclear War, in which case a text message is rather too late, or else they're political spam.)

I thought CAN-SPAM specifically exempts political messages as being spam? Wait a minute...

Good (1)

Haven (34895) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088364)

Now I know exactly how I am going to find out about the world coming to an end.

you'll find out a lot more than you bargained for (5, Insightful)

Lead Butthead (321013) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088554)

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

Re:you'll find out a lot more than you bargained f (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36088652)

Good evening, London. Allow me first to apologize for this interruption...

Re:you'll find out a lot more than you bargained f (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36088814)

Spam? It's the perfect terrorism tool, after a small quake, spread the news about a deadly virus in the air, large fires, etc and order an emergency evacuation.
It doesn't matter how many believe those, but if just one tenth acts on those messages it will be a disaster.

Oh yeah, as long as the hardware can be examined, someone will find a way to crack it sooner or later, if not by the bad guys, then by some hobbyist or "well intentioned security researchers".

Not long now... (1)

Narkov (576249) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088368)

Not long now until they place that chip in your head.

In other news...tin foil sales have gone through the roof.

Re:Not long now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36088460)

Ah Yes, the Cerebrum Communicator from TPC in The President's Analyst: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUa3np4CKC4

Presidential Tweet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36088388)

Presidential Alert: Pizza Hut, Eating pizza, It great, Presid rating going down, Kicked others out.

WTFBBQ (2)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088392)

The last thing you read will be "U R WTFBBQ!!!"

What the? (2)

the_Bionic_lemming (446569) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088400)

Can't we OPT IN for ANY of the above instead?

Sheesh. I want my cellphone to be a Phone. not an internet device, not a tracker, not a web platform, not an MP3 player, Not a camera, not an OMGODZERS ALERT ALERT ALERT!!!!!! - Just a phone. that's it, that's all.

I do not to be properly alerted when I'm out riding my motorcycle in backwater, USA .

Re:What the? (5, Funny)

jpapon (1877296) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088510)

Like you, I yearn for the days of yore. Back when men were men, books were made out of paper, and people died from disasters the old fashioned way... surprised.

Re:What the? (1)

the_Bionic_lemming (446569) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088606)

Ahh, so it's the men who aren't quite men wanting these alerts.

I didn't ask, so you shouldn't of told. :)

Re:What the? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36088658)

He shouldn't've ("should not have" or "shouldn't have") told.

Re:What the? (2)

whathappenedtomonday (581634) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088636)

Relax! Didn't you notice, this time they actually did think of the children!

Granted, not all of them, only the abducted ones, but it's a start, so it must be a good thing.

Re:What the? (3, Interesting)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088642)

So buy a basic phone, opt out from the alert messages, and you're done. Sure, it sounds a bit unnecessary, but it does no harm if unused and is potentially helpful if it is used - that's better than can be said for a lot of things your taxes are funding. If the 'presidential warning' system gets overused (and I'd estimate more than once every decade is overuse) then you've got a legitimate complaint. Emergency warnings seem to be one of the few areas that the government don't have a history of screwing up, so I'll grudgingly give them the benefit of the doubt here.

Re:What the? (2, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088778)

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.

Re:What the? (2)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088870)

I'd say mistrust of the government is quite reasonable given their track record! Oddly, the FCC page doesn't mention any chip - it talks about carriers sending out the messages, in which case I don't see why they wouldn't be received by the normal radio in the phone, and simply tagged in such a way that the firmware would display them differently to normal messages. The Boston Globe seems pretty distinct about the fact that it's done in a combination of hardware and software, but I can't possibly work out why; maybe they didn't check their facts, maybe I've missed something, maybe there is something nefarious going on. Any one of the three is plausible, I would think.

Re:What the? (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088858)

Emergency warnings seem to be one of the few areas that the government don't have a history of screwing up, so I'll grudgingly give them the benefit of the doubt here.

I disagree. The government has failed to give warnings when they should, or as soon as they should.

A fear pervades bureaucrat offices of 'causing a panic'. Oftentimes the warnings are too little too late.

For example... after Usama's death... it took, what, a week before a presidential alert was issued?

Take Katrina... there was no "emergency alert" activation, until mandatory evacuation orders were already being issued. When they could have alerted people much sooner without any fear of a false positive.

Re:What the? (1)

praxis (19962) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088900)

Depends on if you include testing the system a "use". Annoying on the radio...super annoying on a phone.

Surprised (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088416)

I'm always a little surprised when I hear about the government doing something it should be doing. The system works!

Re:Surprised (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088448)

I would be, too.

Doing what now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36088552)

People will be able to opt out of receiving all but the presidential alerts.

One of the reasons this country is great is that you can opt to completely ignore what drivel our dingbat politicians (of both parties) are spewing.

No, the government should not be sending spam to my cellphone, without my consent. Period.

Re:Doing what now? (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088666)

I think they're meaning to bring the emergency broadcast system to you phone. I certainly hope they wouldn't be sending out anything other than disaster alerts. You should be able to opt out completely. Still, I'm impressed that they're rolling this thing out. I'd be even happier if they could set up a website so you can file your 1040 online without going through some shady business that's trying to screw you, but I suspect that may be beyond their level of technical competence.

for the children.... (2)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088426)

it is hard to argue against the idea of the "Amber Alert", but everyone should go read up about the false alarms and abuses of the system.

luckily, we are already getting de-sensitized to alerts from our phones.

Re:for the children.... (1)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088670)

it is hard to argue against the idea of the "Amber Alert", but everyone should go read up about the false alarms and abuses of the system.

luckily, we are already getting de-sensitized to alerts from our phones.

When I hear about an "Amber Alert" I think Fringe Division had the right idea.

Specificity (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088430)

I wonder what level of geographical specificity is possible? Hopefully this will broadcast to selected towers instead of selected phone numbers.

And hopefully the President is careful with "Reply All".

Re:Specificity (1)

KhabaLox (1906148) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088818)

Given that the Chief Executives of most companies can't seem to comprehend BCC, I don't put much faith in the CE of the country.

Thank god! (1)

Daneurysm (732825) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088440)

Now if only they would legislate a government mandated hand-holder for crossing the street and perhaps under-bed anti-boogyman cameras and I'll finally feel completely secure. Truly a win for safety and democracy.

Re:Thank god! (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088758)

...a government mandated hand-holder for crossing the street

There's one of those at the crosswalk near the local elementary school. She's very pretty, with her stop sign and orange vest, but she refuses to hold my hand when I cross :-(

More Government in your pocket. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36088444)

Gonna love to learn what all this chip will do. No doubt it will grant total access to your device and allow total audio and visual access. Oh well, just another way in which the government has gotten into our pants.

Government propaganda on a chip. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36088464)

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

Re:Government propaganda on a chip. (3, Insightful)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Abducted children alerts? Yeah right. (3, Informative)

snsh (968808) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088466)

Every Amber Alert I've seen was related to simple custody disputes among mothers, fathers, and relatives. The kids are not in real danger, but sometimes on TV they claim danger because the kid is on insulin or Ritalin or something.

Re:Abducted children alerts? Yeah right. (1)

pinkfalcon (215531) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088586)

99% of the time you are right, but there was one a couple of months ago where the boyfriend (not the child's father) drove into the delta with kid in the back seat. Amber Alert was active on him, just not fast enough.

An urgent message from President Trump! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36088470)

V1AG4A @ Low LOW Prices!!

Like Japan? (1)

saikou (211301) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088484)

Sounds pretty much like warning system for earthquakes, that shows up as an urgent message on practically all phones in Japan.

The back-end is still probably going to be SMS/MMS based (FCC document vaguely mentions the future ability to send audio/video with these messages).
As long as it's not over-used (say, blasting everyone with "flood warning" messages every time there is a flood warning would be kinda annoying -- I already know that as soon as it rains, everything in my county is under "flood warning") it would be fine.

Re:Like Japan? (1)

Hotawa Hawk-eye (976755) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088762)

As long as it's not overused and the phone companies don't charge for these messages it'll be fine.

Location Services? (1)

mr100percent (57156) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088508)

That's a pretty neat idea, and I can see a lot of great uses for it.

However, it's also worrisome from a privacy perspective. Unlike the EBS/EAS which floods all channels with a warning, this system requires the broadcaster to know a basic vicinity people are in. If there's an announcement telling people below 14th street Manhattan to evacuate (like on 9/11), how will they know who to message unless the phone company or FEMA also has everyone's latest locations already listed in a database? The announcement is short on specifics, whether that will be AT&T or FEMA pushing out the location-sensitive alerts.

I don't quite like the idea; what normally would require a warrant to determine a person's cell tower vicinity will now make it even easier for the government to look someone's location up if they're sharing that data.

Let's hope this stays an Opt-in feature.

Re:Location Services? (1)

Dthief (1700318) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088572)

I am completely against this, but they could just have cell tower X send info to anyone who is connected to it. Thus anonymity is mostly maintained and no information needs to be used that would normally require a warrant.

However, I doubt they will choose a method of delivery which minimizes the amount of information they get.

Re:Location Services? (2)

jpapon (1877296) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088634)

Just because they can access your location to figure out if you need an alert doesn't mean they can use it to track you as part of a criminal investigation. That's like saying that because the fire department can bust into your house to save you, the police can bust into your house to search it.

Re:Location Services? (1)

icebrain (944107) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088726)

The trick is that, like prohibitions on the police busting into your house to search it, prohibitions on the government tracking everyone's location without a warrant are just that: prohibitions that we trust the government to follow, not physical or electronic barriers that actually prevent them from doing those things.

Now, I'd love to get tower-specific immediate broadcast for things like tornado warnings, on an opt-in basis, and administered by NOAA, not Congress or the White House. I really do not want the government demanding access at its will to my phone.

Re:Location Services? (1)

brian1078 (230523) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088918)

... and administered by NOAA, not Congress or the White House. I really do not want the government demanding access at its will to my phone.

you do realize that NOAA is the government, right?

Re:Location Services? (1)

pinkfalcon (215531) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088638)

I'm guessing (completely speculation) that it would not be sent to individual phones, but more than likely would be something that would be controlled by the cell tower.

I can imagine a command to all the cell towers in an affected region that says "send this message to every cell phone you can reach." That way you could target a very specific geographical area without keeping track of who is on what network, who is traveling to Georgia for the weekend, etc..

Re:Location Services? (1)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088676)

The limited range of cell towers neatly fulfils the localisation requirement without any need for tracking. Just tell the towers in the affected region to broadcast to all devices in range - if your phone isn't within the coverage area of those towers, you won't get the message.

Re:Location Services? (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088730)

Your local cell tower would broadcast it to everyone in range. Sending individual messages to every phone would take far too long.

Re:Location Services? (1)

mtxmorph (669251) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088800)

It doesn't track your location. The system is implemented using Cell Broadcast (CBS), which indiscriminately sends out messages to all users in a particular cell. So if your phone is camping in a cell where a tornado will soon strike, you get the message. In this sense, it works exactly like any other one-way radio broadcast -- the sender doesn't know who received the message or how many received it. They can do this because the cellular provider DOES know the location of each cell tower and the general area the tower covers.

Government is PERFECT for the job. (2)

jaskelling (1927116) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088530)

If anyone is qualified to tell me about a disaster, it would be the government. Nobody does/is/makes/exploits/advertises/promotes disasters like they do. Personally, I can't wait to hear the tech support calls about why we're getting Kansas' tornado warnings here in Colorado and who will be sued over the mass chaos sure to ensue.

Presidential Alerts? (3, Insightful)

mr100percent (57156) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088540)

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

Re:Presidential Alerts? (3, Interesting)

Eightbitgnosis (1571875) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088788)

Oh Jesus...

I can just now see Anonymous bringing havoc to the alert system with announcements from President Pedobear

hackable? (1)

pinkfalcon (215531) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088548)

Wait until the spammers find a way to spoof messages from the president.

What else is in the chip... (3, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088568)

I have only one question: Will this standard be open for public inspection?

Re:What else is in the chip... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36088976)

It sounds like an excuse to keep the cellular system proprietary to me. Radio communication is being cloaked in secrecy. As a hobbyist it is not easy to tinker with. It is disturbing to me that there is some information about how things are done that is entrusted to manufacturers but not the general public.

Urgent Presidential Alert! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36088570)

Trump wants to remind you to turn into an all-new Celebrity Apprentice this Friday as he selects the appointees for his next term. Will Palin make the cut?

Ultimate hack target (2)

RockMFR (1022315) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088574)

I wonder if they have thought out the security of this system. Sending a message to nearly every person in the United States at the same time would be an amazing hack. Is it supposed to be all automated, or does each provider have to get the message from FEMA and then manually send it out on their network?

two bad aspects of this idea (2)

ChipMonk (711367) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088588)

One: a single point of failure. One evil-doer + one compromise in the system = panic from false alarm = ignoring future alarms.

Two: replies to that many messages will turn into a back-jam on the SMS.

Does Washington DC care how badly they cock it up? Of course not.

Will txt and data rates apply? roaming? (1, Insightful)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088604)

Will txt and data rates apply? roaming fees?

Re:Will txt and data rates apply? roaming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36088904)

My thoughts exactly.

Service Unavailable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36088618)

So, instead of cell phone service going out after a natural disaster, it will randomly fail at other times as well? Great.

I can just see it now... (1)

__Paul__ (1570) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088632)

...in times of financial difficulties: "This Presidential Alert brought to you by Coke!"

propaganda in your pocket! (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088644)

those terror alerts are so useful... i am so happy that i will be forced to answer them now on my cellphone.

also, id love it if the TSA could blast-email us with photos of 'suspected persons'.

maybe we can even 'crowdsource' the body scanners at airports, and make a face book 'app' out of it! wouldnt that be fun?

Re:propaganda in your pocket! (2)

whathappenedtomonday (581634) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088694)

Volksempfaenger [wikipedia.org] , anyone?

Re:propaganda in your pocket! (4, Informative)

inputdev (1252080) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088784)

wow, scary, thanks for the history lesson, I knew Hitler was big into TV, etc., but I didn't know about this. The link didn't work for me, though: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volksempfanger [wikipedia.org]
I'm glad I'm not the only one that doesn't think this is "good for the people"

Presidential Alert (1)

olsmeister (1488789) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088654)

Please Vote for me in 2012. Thank you. I'm Barack Obama and I've approved this text message.

Disable it (4, Insightful)

sv_libertarian (1317837) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088656)

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.

Re:Disable it (1)

mr100percent (57156) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088698)

Let me play devil's advocate for a moment; the Emergency Broadcast Network routinely cuts into all broadcast TV and radio channels and does weekly tests. People, including myself complain that it interrupts regularly-scheduled programming for about 30 seconds, but it happens every week anyway. This is supposedly the same thing just put onto cell phones.

RAGE (3, Informative)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088774)

If they start testing it on my cellphone that often I'm going to pretty much go berserk.

Emergency Alert System (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36088846)

Let me play devil's advocate for a moment; the Emergency Broadcast Network routinely cuts into all broadcast TV and radio channels and does weekly tests.

It was called the Emergency Broadcast System, now it is the Emergency Alert System. The tests are not required to interrupt programming.
They can occur at the next logical break in programming. Forwarded tests also may occur at the next program break.

Actual alerts need to be broadcast as soon as possible.

You can complain all you want, but the EAS 'in voluntary cooperation with federal and other authorities' is, in fact, a requirement for maintaining a broadcast license.

Re:Disable it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36088850)

How does the fact that they're already doing something similar somewhere else excuse what they're planning to force on us this time?

Re:Disable it (2)

sv_libertarian (1317837) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088866)

Difference is, my phone is a two way communications device that can be uniquely linked to me in various ways. My TV or radio is not. To me this is akin to being told I can't stop a government agent from knocking at my door with a message for me. I don't want them knocking at my door with an important message, and I don't want them sending a message to my phone. Go away. I'm quite capable of opting in for alert services if I want. This is just a form of feel good security theater.

Re:Disable it (1)

tweak13 (1171627) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088876)

Weekly tests are run individually at each station, and are not required to be automatically triggered. Programming should never be interrupted by a weekly test unless the station operator chooses to interrupt programming. At the radio stations I worked at, it was always placed into a regular break specifically to not cause an interruption.

Re:Disable it (2)

assemblerex (1275164) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088744)

Well import an unlocked phone from europe, or a cheap chinese phone.
Of course they would have to make imported unchipped phones illegal, for safety of course.

Re:Disable it (1)

Ruke (857276) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088930)

I'm curious, why are you so opposed to receiving messages about emergency conditions in your area? Is there a pragmatic reason that you don't want to receive earthquake warnings, or are you just opposed to this in particular because you think that you should oppose the government in general?

Re:Disable it (2)

sv_libertarian (1317837) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088962)

I'm opposed to be told I *must* receive these messages. I am opposed to having to opt out of having someone contact me via my two way communications device that I may not want to be contacted over. I am opposed to being compelled to pay extra for compliant hardware, and that my provider may charge me extra to recoup costs associated with participating in this program. It's the loss of *choice* I oppose. But some people prefer to have choices made for them. I prefer to make them myself. And I would prefer to *chose* what messages I get, how and from whom. I can block callers and people attempting to reach my phone that I do not wish to communicate with. I cannot block this. Personal choice, personal freedom and personal responsibility. It has nothing to do with "opposing the government" or "being opposed to receiving messages about emergency conditions." It has everything to do with being told I may have no choice in receiving certain types of messages.

This requires a chip? (1)

HermDog (24570) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088702)

Why can't Obama just get a twitter account?

Hells to the no... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36088706)

So the government will be hijacking my phone?
Opt-out is bad enough, opt-out-except-not-really is completely unacceptable.

[tinfoil]
And that's just the "features" they actually tell us about.
[/tinfoil]

So is this going to show up on my pager? (1)

amanicdroid (1822516) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088716)

Lots of hip, important people like me need to know.

THIS IS AN ANNOUNCEMENT FROM THE PRESIDENT (0)

assemblerex (1275164) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088722)

Due to emergency I have temporarily invoked martial law.
Trucks will be dispatched to the homes of registered firearm owners to secure them for the safety of the people
We urge parents to keep their children indoors as unregistered protests will be seen as violation of martial law

Re:THIS IS AN ANNOUNCEMENT FROM THE PRESIDENT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36088810)

It's spelled martian law. I've been promised an Adrienne Barbeaubot under martian law.

Re:THIS IS AN ANNOUNCEMENT FROM THE PRESIDENT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36088840)

This is an especially poor attempt at trolling. Not only does it have nothing to do with the story, it has absolutely no basis in reality. None of these things have happened, and there is no indication that anyone actually wants any of these things to happen. It's a strawman that doesn't even have the privilege of being knocked down to make a point.

As a favor to the rest of us, could you please stop to think, "Will anyone benefit from reading this?" before you make posts in the future?

Tinfoil hat time (3, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

NL has this on standard text messages (4, Informative)

QuasiSteve (2042606) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088746)

The Netherlands has such a system on standard text messages. The broadcasting agency in question simply selects what region to broadcast an SMS-alert to, and all cellphones within that region (basically the ones currently registered to given towers) get the SMS if the user signed up for the type of alert in question (though some can override, i.e. in case of major disaster.. say a chlorine spill).

Before the text messages, they used a different system - the SMS-cell broadcast channels. Many older phones are capable of receiving these, but most users aren't signed up for the channels in question. Many newer phones don't even offer an interface to this anymore. Hence the switch to SMS.
Most of the channels are also not used by providers in NL. They figured out that they could get more money by offering information for-pay, or letting for-pay SMS operators pay them, than giving the information for free. I.e. current local time, weather, etc. The only one that seems to be consistently available is channel 050; area code. Even though NL hardly has area code segmentation anymore, and certainly not for cellphones, it's still reported, and crossing into some other municipality does cause a cell broadcast notification on my older phone.

Long story short - why do they want a separate chip, exactly?

Re:NL has this on standard text messages (4, Informative)

AndroSyn (89960) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088798)

Long story short - why do they want a separate chip, exactly?

Nowhere on the fcc.gov site linked in the story does it say anything about phones requiring any sort of chip. Basically the important part of the system is the secure interface between government and the wireless providers. In short this is more like the EAS system, but for mobile phones. Chances are most network carriers *will* implement this over SMS.

Re:NL has this on standard text messages (0)

KhabaLox (1906148) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088864)

Long story short - why do they want a separate chip, exactly?

+1 Insightful

I hope it is a good design (4, Insightful)

wkk2 (808881) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:I hope it is a good design (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088872)

The messages need to be digitally signed or we are going to get spam claiming to be from the president.

You think digital signing of messages will stop that?

I already sometimes get spam "claiming" to be from the president or from/sanctioned by some other gov't official, and they didn't even have to implement this chip system for me to get that spam.

forbin's dream (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36088802)

This is the voice of world control. I bring you peace. It may be the peace of plenty and content or the peace of unburied death. The choice is yours: Obey me and live, or disobey and die.

Cell Tower Pushing (1)

KhabaLox (1906148) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088854)

Given the speed in which /. as identified cell tower pushing as the best way to implement this idea, we can be assured that the government will do something else.

No legitimate use (4, Insightful)

The Man (684) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088856)

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.

UNACCEPTABLE opt-out constraints (-1, Flamebait)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088880)

People will be able to opt out of receiving all but the presidential alerts."

My device, my rules.

I must be able to opt out ALL special messages I don't want to receive, including presidential alerts

Why a chip? (1)

zAPPzAPP (1207370) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088916)

Why does a mobile need a chip to do this? Any provider can send me messages. They do that when I go to another country, or when their prices change for example.
Why not simply set up a server somewhere with "urgent messages" and let the providers broadcast them to every phone currently logged into their network?
They seem to have the infrastructure to do that already.

Actually the link in the OP doesn't mention a chip, only a network. What's up with this?

Potentially Good (1)

borrrden (2014802) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088920)

The basic premise of this idea is not a bad one. Japan already has a similar mechanism in place for earthquakes. All Japanese-made cell phones are embedded with an alarm that is triggered by the early earthquake warning system (It only sets off the alarm for the people in the area expected to be affected). However, I think the reason it works is because it has a distinct alarm noise that is built in, not able to be disabled (even in silent mode), and there is no text to read. It helps give people a few moments to prepare or get to cove because they know immediately what it means. In those cases, quick conveyance of messages is key, as pointed out. Getting a text on a tiny screen is very useless for people with impaired vision or people who are driving. Perhaps a better solution would be to have the alarm indicate that they should quickly listen to their nearest source of the emergency broadcast system (radio, television, internet). The information is still passed on more quickly than before, but with much less risk, and much less annoyance if people don't care or are unable to read the messages they receive. That being said, Congress needs to carefully think about what messages are worth triggering the alarm for, or people will simply look for ways to disable it once they get too many messages that are not important. The Japan example is easy, earthquakes are universally feared and an early warning is highly desired. A message about the change of our terror alert might not be as welcomed.

Yeah, fixed that for ya... (4, Informative)

Panaflex (13191) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088938)

First off, there are no new chips required... this standard is designed to operate off existing 3gpp type interfaces over gsm/cdma/etc.. The standard is pretty open ended on the handset as far as protocols, only specifying that the message be presented in a an attention getting way.

The interesting thing I think is how to secure the federal gateway... I'm guessing they'll use a dedicated frame relay from the federal CMAS system to the commercial gateways.

These standards are being published by ANSI, they are J-STD-100, J-STD-101, J-STD-102. You may be able to find some of the documents on the 3gpp2.org web site.

If you've got $850 bucks laying around, you can read all three interface specifications yourself below:
Device presentation specs:
http://webstore.ansi.org/RecordDetail.aspx?sku=J-STD-100 [ansi.org]

Federal CMAS gateway specification (http specs):
http://webstore.ansi.org/RecordDetail.aspx?sku=J-STD-101 [ansi.org]

Federal CMAS gateway specification (testing specs):
http://webstore.ansi.org/RecordDetail.aspx?sku=J-STD-102 [ansi.org]

But we've already got helicopters for that (1)

jedwidz (1399015) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088942)

It's a major botch if there aren't already ample features in the mobile phone infrastructure to meet the same requirements.

I kinda assumed emergency broadcasts were already possible, but collective incompetence of government and telcos meant that they weren't used in practice.

I mean, here in NZ we've had authorities flying over the beaches in helicopters with bullhorns issuing tsunami warnings. Helicopters I tell you!

PRESIDENT OBAMA WANTS MOMS TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL (-1, Redundant)

DustoneGT (969310) | more than 3 years ago | (#36088980)

AND GET CARS AND REFINANCE THEIR MORTGAGES.
Yup, just wait until the unscrupulous internet advertisers get ahold of it :)
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