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AT&T Rolls Out iPhone Wireless Emergency Alerts

timothy posted about a year ago | from the big-brother-speaking dept.

Cellphones 199

First time accepted submitter TigerPlish writes "AT&T has rolled out Wireless Emergency Alerts for iPhones. The alerts are for huge catastrophes (a Presidential Alert), for weather / natural calamities, and for AMBER alerts. One can turn off the latter two, but the Presidential alert cannot be turned off. The article mentions only 4S and 5 get this update. That said, I have a 4 and it got the update this morning. This was enacted in 2006, for those keeping track of such things. I, for one, do not care for this any more than I like the idea of them reading my communications to begin with. Oh, I'm sorry, the "metadata" from my communications." As promised.

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Mass SMS? (4, Interesting)

r2kordmaa (1163933) | about a year ago | (#44022893)

Why cant emergency services just use plain old SMS service? "don't go outside, there is a hurricane if you havent noticed"

it was designed for it. (2)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#44022913)

that's the fucking hilarious part! I'm laughing my ass off here at this. Wireless Emergency Alerts! FUCKING BRILLIANT! if they had done their gsm networks as they were supposed to they would have had these localized alerts long time ago.

nobody really uses them in anywhere in the world for much anything though, I think it's probably because areas that have this implemented aren't hit with catastrophes that would warrant such.. around here basically there would have to be a bombing raid I think.. I mean, just a "bear in downtown" or shit like that wouldn't be serious enough.

I don't think they're going to be broadcasting info about shootings etc over this in the states either..

Re:it was designed for it. (4, Insightful)

tysonedwards (969693) | about a year ago | (#44022955)

Well, it *was* used just last week for the Oklahoma Tornado.
With regards to shootings or a bear in town, DUH! Do you really expect this to be used as a "news source"? Also, zero difference to the Emergency Broadcast System, just now putting it on an iPhone. Oh wait! Someone rush out and file a patent!

Re:it was designed for it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44023251)

No it was not. SMS is a byproduct of the signaling. It was build so the carrier can send small bits of information to it's customers, *BUT NOT ALL AT ONCE*. You're thinking of CELL BROADCAST, this is intended to send information in an area to ALL logged in phones.

Re:it was designed for it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44023327)

Yeah - Cell Broadcast Service has been available on GSM/UMTS-based networks, and handsets for ages, and yet hardly anyone actually uses it (save maybe for O2's HomeZone thingy that broadcasts PSTN area codes) in most of the world.

Re:Mass SMS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44022915)

That wouldn't make the Public Servant in Chief feel special, would it?

Re:Mass SMS? (2)

jrmcferren (935335) | about a year ago | (#44022927)

Simple, a mass SMS would overload the network in a situation where the network is stressed. Plus it takes longer to determine all the numbers that need to receive the message.

Re:Mass SMS? (0)

r2kordmaa (1163933) | about a year ago | (#44022947)

SMS works in the network overhead anyway, it can not overload the network.

Re:Mass SMS? (2)

Goaway (82658) | about a year ago | (#44023099)

So then it will be too slow instead.

Re:Mass SMS? (1)

r2kordmaa (1163933) | about a year ago | (#44023215)

How much data do you really need to tranfer? its just a short piece of string. And i think there is also a possibility for SMS broadcast. SMS was put into GSM protocols for just this purpose, using it for texting was not the initial goal, just how it turned out.

Re:Mass SMS? (3, Informative)

FuzzNugget (2840687) | about a year ago | (#44023269)

I doubt it.

The control channel along which SMS runs is used to bounce a signal back and forth between your phone and the nearest tower(s). That's a signal that triggers every few seconds for keep-alive purposes and it's the same byte size whether it carries an SMS or not (that's why SMS messages are limited to 160 characters). Broadcasting a network-wide SMS should little effect on network congestion.

And now you also know that any carrier charging you more than $0 for SMS is full of shit (it doesn't cost then anything)

Re:Mass SMS? (2, Interesting)

mysidia (191772) | about a year ago | (#44024217)

And now you also know that any carrier charging you more than $0 for SMS is full of shit (it doesn't cost then anything)

Yes it does cost them.

You are perpetuating a fallacy, that fixed costs don't matter, only marginal ones per transaction; this is the same sort of flawwed argument some people use to rationalize music or software piracy to themselves. The reality is that in business, all costs matter, and products in the marketplace get priced based on both fixed and marginal cost.

The marginal cost to the carrier per SMS message are very low or close to $0. There is no additional cell network capacity used.

On the other hand... what is consumed, is capacity of systems involved in storing and forwarding the SMS content. That is to say, when you send someone a text message, there is an entry in a database created somewhere -- that record needs to get from your tower to the recipient's handset; there will be some cost in terms of magnetic storage.

If they are purchasing enterprise class storage arrays for branch locations where they route these messages, the average cost is about $25 per gigabyte. at an average length of 80 characters per text message, and each message passing through each system, each text message costs about $0.000004, in storage that will be temporarily tied up; now, each processor node that receives and forwards these text messages, also has a CPU capacity, and each text message has a fraction of CPU and RAM that will be temporarily tied up as well.

When all is said and done, you can make the argument that a SMS usage, probably takes up $0.0001 in marginal cost.

Furthermore, there is some equipment the carrier has to purchase and continuously maintain for SMS functionality to continue to work. They also have to provide support for their customers, so there is an average operational cost text per message per month (in support terms) for providing a SMS service.

The average fixed cost portion, eventually decreases with sufficient number of text messages -- at least until equipment capacity is reached, and better storage, forwarding, and accounting systems are needed to provide more capacity -- stair step pattern, if you need to buy a $500,000 storage array, the cost per text message ever sent will initially will be very high, and gradually average down over time.

They charge users of the service more than what it costs them, per message

That's called margin, and is a fundamental requirement for a service to be worth providing -- if there's no profit in it, then the carrier should not provide the service. And you could make the argument that they are taking advantages due to the lack of competition in the current market place, resulting from monopolistic practices, and the government's anti-consumer practice of auctioning "exclusive spectrum rights", to supplement the treasury's tax revenues.

However The cost per SMS message is not $0. The marginal portion is zero. The fixed portion is not.

fairly sure this uses sms (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#44023299)

if the phone is connected to the network the sms can be put through.
in any case sms is 324r82309 times more reliable for this than using data link for it.

I'm fairly sure that this thing of theirs on the iphone uses the sms network. however, I'm fairly sure that the iphone had not implemented the flash(or whatever you want to call it) standard where the sms is displayed on the screen immediately. that's why they needed to push an OTA update to the iphones..

Re:fairly sure this uses sms (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44024419)

in any case sms is 324r82309 times more reliable for this than using data link for it.

In areas of the midwest, I've had problems with sms messages taking hours to deliver or just disappearing and never getting received by someone else in the same town, despite normal phone calls and data working fine. YMMV

Re:Mass SMS? (1)

supersat (639745) | about a year ago | (#44023131)

I believe these use Cell Broadcasts [wikipedia.org] , which allows SMSes to be broadcast to all phones subscribed to them.

Re:Mass SMS? (0)

mysidia (191772) | about a year ago | (#44024107)

Why cant emergency services just use plain old SMS service? "don't go outside, there is a hurricane if you havent noticed"

They need it as a primitive for the "mandatory alert characteristics"; such as prominent warning forcibly shown on the phone's display, and kept on the display regardless of the user's intentions (or desire to block/suppress), required non-blockability of the messages, and mandatory interruption of whatever the end user was doing with their phone.

Not Big Brother, and long overdue EAS extension (5, Insightful)

Etcetera (14711) | about a year ago | (#44022917)

You're an idiot if you're complaining about this. The EAS (and its predecessor, the EBS) has been around for almost 50 years and is a necessary, though at times potentially ineffective, capability to have. From the mid-90s into the late 2000's there was concern that the "traditional" methods of activation would be come less and less effective.

Every single broadcast TV and radio station has a manual right in the control room and there's an out-of-band method for heirarchical distribution of messages from local relays to cut in at a moment's notice.

The problems were that people nowadays were spending more and more time away from live, regulated broadcasts, and with cell phones instead of land lines (for reverse 911 calls in the event of an evacuation).

Extending these regulations to "channels where people are actually spending their time" is an important part of keeping the system relevant. Cable systems have been doing text overlays (scrolling text for EAS tests or NWS alerts) for a while, but that now cuts through into your cable-provided DVR if you have one. Netflix and other streaming providers have ways of injecting data into the feed. Hell, at a game company I used to work for there was talk of using zip code subscriber data to forward NWS alerts to users *within the game* to ensure that someone didn't miss a tornado warning if they were spending the evening with their favorite MMORPG and the radio off.

Extending this to cell phone towers and multicast paging simply makes sense. It's not nefarious, it's just good public policy.

(And this is coming from someone definitely of the libertarian-conservative mindset, and no fan of the current President.)

Re:Not Big Brother, and long overdue EAS extension (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44023093)

Where i live, the sirens go off and if you care you turn on the tv/radio/etc.

Re:Not Big Brother, and long overdue EAS extension (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44023653)

Where I live, the emergency siren sounds every Tuesday at 12:00 noon, sharp!
As instructed by the Civil Defense authorities, I always run into my cellar and hide.
When I come out, usually in about an hour, I notice that everything has been restored to normal.
I'm thankful that we have these emergency sirens. They have saved my life fifty two times in the past year.

Very half-baked (5, Insightful)

SuperBanana (662181) | about a year ago | (#44023101)

You're an idiot if you're complaining about this.

Well, *I* am going to complain, because the system is implemented on my Android phone. It's been incredibly annoying. Remember that big huge east coast snowstorm?

It'd been on the TV and print news and intertubes for DAYS. There was a morning press conference and state of emergency declared. It was only after it had started snowing that someone thought to send out the alerts, and they seemed to make up for lateness through volume/repetition.

I think by the end of the day (at which point it was near white-out conditions) my cell phone had loudly alerted me to the weather emergency something like SIX times. There's clearly no intelligence to the system, or someone just decided that sending it out several times was best just in case we hadn't noticed the massive snowfall or had been hiding in a cave for the last WEEK.

Re:Very half-baked (5, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44023153)

People in Seattle got storm warnings about storms in the Caribbean, child abduction alerts for the midwest, etc.

It seems every custody battle is now escalated to an imminent danger of children being murdered simply so that
there is an excuse to send an EAS broadcast to an entire state.

Re:Very half-baked (2)

PNutts (199112) | about a year ago | (#44023161)

You describe what sounds like an intelligently used alert system. To use weather lingo it sounds like you are confused on forecast vs. watch vs. warning. This type alert should be reserved for "in progress" emergencies. What would be annoying is to get these alerts for days before (only to then possibly have it miss).

Re:Very half-baked (1)

mysidia (191772) | about a year ago | (#44024287)

This type alert should be reserved for "in progress" emergencies. What would be annoying is to get these alerts for days before (only to then possibly have it miss).

This type of alert should be restricted to unanticipated events that occured without notice, or clarity on when they would be occuring.

In other words: if the event was warned about within 24 hours. There should be no abuse of alerting systems to warn about what was already announced.

And AMBER alerts .... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44023173)

I ignore AMBER alerts because most likely, the kid was taken by one of his parents because of the all too common ugly divorces that use children as bargaining chips. Especially, when you see a description of the kidnapper and a license plate. You just know it was the parent with custody (usually the mother because the moms get custody even if they're a crack whore who is a hooker to pay for it) who knows the description of the other parent and their license plate. Really; who takes down a plate when an adult is putting a kid into a car? Screaming kid? Yeah, like that never happens.

When a kid is really kidnapped by a pervert or child serial killer, he just disappears - no license plates, description of the kidnapper or other details to put in the news. Just a picture on a milk carton only to never hear from the kid again.

Re:And AMBER alerts .... (1)

Cyberax (705495) | about a year ago | (#44023453)

Bad idea. Quite often cars are stolen with children in them - in this case there'll be license plate info as well. And it's a good idea to make note of these alerts because carjackers quite often simply abandon stolen cars with children.

Re:Very half-baked (1)

NoKaOi (1415755) | about a year ago | (#44023631)

It's been incredibly annoying.

I agree. In my case, it's because they don't seem to distinguish common weather alerts from real natural disasters. In my area (Maui), every time it rains there's potential for flash flooding, and everyone who lives here knows it. So every time it rains, I get a loud annoying alert every couple of hours. I can see out the window. Everyone who lives here can see out the window. But I'm sure there's liability involved because tourists don't know not to play in the gullies in the rain, and the state has been sued before when someone got swept out to sea (happens sometimes), so they are probably scared to not send those out and in reality it really could save a tourist's life. The problem is, if I turn it off, I'm turning it off for real natural disasters too. I want to know ASAP if a tsunami is on its way. I want to turn off the weather alerts (flash flood warnings) but not the alerts for real disasters.

Re:Very half-baked (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44023963)

Well, *I* am going to complain, because the system is implemented on my Android phone.

I was actually in a meeting the other week and the flash flood warning went off with the voice spoken alert just as it started to rain.
After the quick WTF from everyone in the office and a few times since I've gotten used to it.

I wouldn't blame the fact that someone is missing a potentially valuable technology on one or two missuses, give it time.

Besides if nothing else it gives me just enough time to get my gun!

Re:Not Big Brother, and long overdue EAS extension (3, Insightful)

TigerPlish (174064) | about a year ago | (#44023123)

You're an idiot if you're complaining about this.

Well, good day to you too, sir.

My complaint isn't about the message, it's the method of delivery. Or rather, the inability to turn off The President's Mouthpiece.

I can turn off the AMBER and weather alerts, but not The President's Mouthpiece. That's the part that truly gets my goat. Now listen to your phone like the good little citizen you are!

Re: Not Big Brother, and long overdue EAS extensio (1)

EvilSS (557649) | about a year ago | (#44023183)

You mean the presidential alerts that have never been used in the 50 plus year history if the eas/ebs?

Re:Not Big Brother, and long overdue EAS extension (1)

T-Bone-T (1048702) | about a year ago | (#44023213)

I've never even heard a Presidential Alert so I'm not worried about it.

Re:Not Big Brother, and long overdue EAS extension (1)

PNutts (199112) | about a year ago | (#44023235)

You're an idiot if you're complaining about this.

Well, good day to you too, sir.

My complaint isn't about the message, it's the method of delivery. Or rather, the inability to turn off The President's Mouthpiece.

I can turn off the AMBER and weather alerts, but not The President's Mouthpiece. That's the part that truly gets my goat. Now listen to your phone like the good little citizen you are!

I can't imagine being so rigid and closed minded that I wouldn't want to receive a message during a national emergency. Your position isn't interesting enough to find out if it's any president, any political party, or you're simply an anarchist. If it gives you any comfort, no president has used this type of notification in the past 50 years. Now go get your custom firmware to block it like the good little tin foil hat drone you are!

Re:Not Big Brother, and long overdue EAS extension (1)

silas_moeckel (234313) | about a year ago | (#44023399)

And the problem with a default on rather than can not be disabled??

Re:Not Big Brother, and long overdue EAS extension (0)

DarkOx (621550) | about a year ago | (#44023583)

Well imagine harder. The president is such a sack of shit I don't accept anything as true until I can independently verify it. So listing to him before hearing from other more trust worthy sources first is pretty useless. Usually when I hear the president on the television news or radio at this point I just turn the station.

I'll find out what he had to say later with some other information and analysis around it thank you very much.

Re:Not Big Brother, and long overdue EAS extension (1)

krisyan (2812943) | about a year ago | (#44023125)

I agree. I've gotten tornado warnings and flash flood warnings on my phone that I probably wouldn't have gotten as quickly otherwise. I love that it's based on my location so I don't get alerts for an area I'm not in, and miss alerts for the area I'm currently in. I also like that it forces me to acknowledge the message. A simple text message isn't enough to wake me up in the middle of the night, but I like that this will wake me up if there's a tornado warning. I like to think of it as a weather radio built into my phone.

Re:Not Big Brother, and long overdue EAS extension (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44023205)

you forgot that some people simply do not give a fuck what some government asshole wants to bother them with

Re:Not Big Brother, and long overdue EAS extension (2)

Etcetera (14711) | about a year ago | (#44024143)

It's against FCC regulations for *any* broadcaster to continue broadcasting during a Presidential alert... If they can't simulcast to transmit it, they're supposed to either go dark or transmit a message advising people to tune to the L1 or L2 transmission station in their area. It's been like than since the founding after the Cuban Missile Crisis... If you have a problem, take it up with President Kennedy.

Extending that principle, or non-ability to block messages, to other communications mediums is fine by me.

Re:Not Big Brother, and long overdue EAS extension (2)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44023241)

I don't like having anything forced down my throat. I can't stand AMBER alerts. It's always a non-costodial parent, not some random kindnapping. It scared the hell out of me when my phone started vibrating and yelling just because another kid went missing. That's not so bad, because I can opt out. But I can't turn off presidental alerts? WTF? It's my fucking phone. I'm libertarian-liberal and I don't think anyone should be able to force me to leave that turned on.

Re:Not Big Brother, and long overdue EAS extension (1)

DarthBart (640519) | about a year ago | (#44023601)

If only there were a button in the "Govermnent Alerts" part of the "Notifications" menu that allowed you to turn off AMBER alerts separately.

And if only there were another button that allowed you to turn off the rest of the Alerts as well.

Re:Not Big Brother, and long overdue EAS extension (2)

Etcetera (14711) | about a year ago | (#44024159)

It's against FCC violations to keep transmitting regular programming during a Presidential EAN alert. An un-blockable system message that "Oh, btw, the Russians just nuked us" is not that big a deal.

Re:Not Big Brother, and long overdue EAS extension (1)

mysidia (191772) | about a year ago | (#44024373)

It's always a non-costodial parent, not some random kindnapping. It scared the hell out of me when my phone started vibrating and yelling just because another kid went missing.

See... the AMBER alert laws, need to be changed, so an alert only goes out if the person reporting them missing swears that the kidnapper was unknown or "all custodial parents signed off on the report", or there was evidence (besides the kidnapping), that the child is in danger.

Re:Not Big Brother, and long overdue EAS extension (3, Informative)

silas_moeckel (234313) | about a year ago | (#44023359)

The key issue with it is it demands that presidential broadcasts go through. I'm ok with a required default on. Tivo/Comcast implemented this badly at first weather a NWS alert for 2 states away would flip me to live tv and no allow me to ignore it, Asside for turning the tv off you had to watch it twice in English and Spanish all the way through before your device returned control to the owner. Now mind you since I used DPMS to turn the TV off this means that a test alert at 3am would pop the TV on to do so. Why can I not configure it to never give me Spanish should it not give whatever language the device UI is set for? Can we not setup priorities I don't care about flash floods heavy rain etc I have a window and can feel that sort of thing in my bones anyways.

Re:Not Big Brother, and long overdue EAS extension (1)

WaffleMonster (969671) | about a year ago | (#44023767)

You're an idiot if you're complaining about this.

I'm an idiot.

From the mid-90s into the late 2000's there was concern that the "traditional" methods of activation would be come less and less effective.

Denial of end-user to disable messaging they do not wish to receive is my problem with this scheme.

Re:Not Big Brother, and long overdue EAS extension (1)

mysidia (191772) | about a year ago | (#44024243)

You're an idiot if you're complaining about this. The EAS (and its predecessor, the EBS) has been around for almost 50 years and is a necessary, though at times potentially ineffective, capability to have. From the mid-90s into the late 2000's there was concern that the "traditional" methods of activation would be come less and less effective.

My biggest problem with the EAS is I think it's abused. I frequently have cable broadcasts interrupted in the middle of a program for "tests", or for "a severe thunderstorm warning" somewhere.

The fact of the matter, is it is an abusive intrusion that I should have a right to escape.

Re:Not Big Brother, and long overdue EAS extension (1)

Etcetera (14711) | about a year ago | (#44024329)

I would advise you to check the FCC Rule 15 Part B disclaimer in the legal section of your cell phone's manual.

Really object to emergency information ? (1)

perpenso (1613749) | about a year ago | (#44022923)

I, for one, do not care for this ...

Seriously? In a large scale disaster (hurricane, earthquake, etc) you would be irritated by getting a free text telling you where emergency relief (shelter, blankets, food, water) may be found? In tornado country you would be irritated by getting a free text warning you of weather conditions that may indicate tornado formation?

Re:Really object to emergency information ? (0)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about a year ago | (#44022965)

Because it leads to the ability to spread propaganda or misinformation (especially if someone hacks it!) to everyone with a smartphone and since it's "official" people will be less apt to question it.

Sure, the Montana zombie attack was pretty funny http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7pNAhENBV4 [youtube.com]

But when the AP (just one of many sources for news on Twitter) had their Twitter hacked to say that there was an attack on the White House, the stock market plunged: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2313652/AP-Twitter-hackers-break-news-White-House-explosions-injured-Obama.html [dailymail.co.uk]

Now imagine if something like that AP tweet was sent to every smartphone in America. It wouldn't be pretty.

Re:Really object to emergency information ? (1)

PNutts (199112) | about a year ago | (#44023105)

Because it leads to the ability to spread propaganda or misinformation (especially if someone hacks it!) to everyone with a smartphone and since it's "official" people will be less apt to question it.

Because it leads to people making wild claims based on unrelated third party applications and services? Based on your comment I'm not sure what kind of communications should be allowed beyond "none".

Re:Really object to emergency information ? (1)

anagama (611277) | about a year ago | (#44023533)

I'm OK with an emergency channel that can't be turned off provided it comes with a V:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0oWs_voUPkk [youtube.com]

Re:Really object to emergency information ? (1)

TigerPlish (174064) | about a year ago | (#44023063)

I don't object to the message, I object to the chosen method of delivery and the inability to opt-out of the most ominous. In other words, if the Government speaks and one has a WEA-enabled device, one must listen like a good little citizen!

You know, like those radios some governments had mandated you have [wikipedia.org] . Good luck if they found you with a non-compliant radio.

Re:Really object to emergency information ? (1)

Goaway (82658) | about a year ago | (#44023111)

It's a few letter displayed on your phone.

Get some sense of perspective, seriously.

Re:Really object to emergency information ? (4, Informative)

starless (60879) | about a year ago | (#44023261)

My girlfriend has Sprint which enabled these alerts previously.
Several months ago we were woken at 5am by a loud alert
at about 5am.
This was an Amber alert. While it's a great shame, we certainly didn't want to woken for this,
and there was nothing we could do.
Although the alert can be turned off, the default was for it to be on, which I believe is not the proper way this
should have been enabled.

Re:Really object to emergency information ? (1)

drcheap (1897540) | about a year ago | (#44023503)

Yeah, "nothing you could do." Except, maybe, TURN OFF that type of alert in your settings?
So you were inconvenienced once because of your ignorance about the included features of the phone. How is that anyone else's fault?

There are plenty of settings on my phone (any tons of other devices & applications) for which I do not agree with the default value of. That is why one of my first tasks is to peruse ALL the options and set them up according to my personal preferences. That is, after all, what those settings screens are there for in the first place.

Re:Really object to emergency information ? (1)

starless (60879) | about a year ago | (#44023593)

The "nothing we could do" refers to our inability to help the unfortunate child the amber alert went out for.

Re:Really object to emergency information ? (1)

perpenso (1613749) | about a year ago | (#44023169)

if the Government speaks and one has a WEA-enabled device, one must listen like a good little citizen!

I missed the part where the delete button was disabled, and there was a quiz to determine that you had in fact read the text message prior to deletion. :-)

Re:Really object to emergency information ? (1)

mysidia (191772) | about a year ago | (#44024449)

I missed the part where the delete button was disabled, and there was a quiz to determine that you had in fact read the text message prior to deletion. :-)

Excellent reply to anyone complaining about spam in general. Viagra ads can be perfectly justified, because there's still a delete button :)

Re:Really object to emergency information ? (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | about a year ago | (#44023349)

I hear that if you tightly wrap your phone with tin foil, then it will disable these alerts.

And the look will coordinate nicely with your hat.

Re:Really object to emergency information ? (1)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#44023145)

If it were rare and sent once, it could be useful, but the system as currently implemented constantly spams you with updates, the way traditional cut-in warnings on TV do. Once I know that there's a major snowstorm in my area, I don't need impossible-to-turn-off push notifications every hour just telling me that there is still a major snowstorm and here is a routine update.

Re:Really object to emergency information ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44023295)

I don't need impossible-to-turn-off push notifications every hour,

Well, sounds like you will endorse the product then, since it lets you turn off the weather notifications.

If it were rare and sent once

Well, the one that can't be turned off (but the message could be dismissed afterward) has never been used in 50 years, is that rare enough?

Re:Really object to emergency information ? (1)

mysidia (191772) | about a year ago | (#44024413)

In a large scale disaster (hurricane, earthquake, etc) you would be irritated by getting a free text telling you where emergency relief (shelter, blankets, food, water) may be found?

They generally don't tell you that. You have to watch the news and listen to other radio programming to find where the shelters are.

By the way... they interrupt the news and other programming with the EAS alerts.

Even the really shitty EAS alerts like "severe thunderstorm warning", or "flood warning" (pertaining mostly to some county 20 miles away that has some really low-lying areas), that are about non-threatening conditions, or conditions known 24 hours in advance.

Completely useless... (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about a year ago | (#44022941)

I fail to see how this will be useful in a (real) emergency. After all, how long did it take for 9/11 to be known among the masses? This was in 2001, long before smartphones became the norm and long before wi-fi was everywhere.

I've got no problem with weather or AMBER alerts since you can disable them, in fact weather alerts might actually be useful during tornado season. But just let us disable everything if we don't want it. The entire "presidential alert" just seems like something you'd see in 1984 to spread propaganda.

Re:Completely useless... (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about a year ago | (#44022995)

After all, how long did it take for 9/11 to be known among the masses?

Longer than it took for the plane to hit the second tower. I'm sure there will be a Cydia app that will disable it, and if you're so concerned about this invading your rights and you STILL own an iphone, you will have certainly jailbroken it already.

Re:Completely useless... (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44023189)

After all, how long did it take for 9/11 to be known among the masses?

Longer than it took for the plane to hit the second tower. I'm sure there will be a Cydia app that will disable it, and if you're so concerned about this invading your rights and you STILL own an iphone, you will have certainly jailbroken it already.

Bull. I slept through the first impact, (west coast) but my phone blew up well before the second one.

What can/would the President send to every citizen on this other than a declaration of nation wide Martial Law?
Storms and disasters are LOCAL issues.

Me "Honey, we just got an alert from the president that the entire country is going to be obliterated in 20 minutes!"
She "Nice try, but I still have a headache.

Re:Completely useless... (1)

Omestes (471991) | about a year ago | (#44023549)

What can/would the President send to every citizen on this other than a declaration of nation wide Martial Law?
Storms and disasters are LOCAL issues

Kids these days... they exists mostly for nuclear war, and invasions. Something that was a background threat not that long ago. They haven't been used, thankfully, but if they ever need to be used, it would be a good thing. I really don't see having the potential to send out an emergency broadcast as a bad thing.

Imagine in the case of a truly large scale disaster (such as an asteroid) , or an actual nuclear attack, not being in range of an active TV or radio...

What can/would the President send to every citizen on this other than a declaration of nation wide Martial Law?

Ah... you're one of them. But even accepting that this is something that might happen in our lifetimes, I would think that some segment of our population (the rarely vindicated paranoids) would like to know, so they can grab their 10,000 firearms and cans of beans, and go out with their bullhorns to scream at their neighbors "I told you so!".

Re:Completely useless... (2)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44023737)

(the rarely vindicated paranoids

Well clearly YOU need a little more connectivity to current events, but I suspect it is unlikely to come via s special notice from the president.

Re:Completely useless... (1)

Omestes (471991) | about a year ago | (#44023885)

Well clearly YOU need a little more connectivity to current events

So how's life in that FEMA camp? I'm sorry to hear that Muslim, Communist, jackbooted thugs broke into your house and took all your guns.

Things are bad, but not nearly as bad as a segment of the population wishes it was.

Re:Completely useless... (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#44023267)

I fail to see how this will be useful in a (real) emergency. After all, how long did it take for 9/11 to be known among the masses? This was in 2001, long before smartphones became the norm and long before wi-fi was everywhere.

What do you define as a "real" emergency? Since not everyone watches news 24x7, it could take hours before people know about it. An attack against a chemical plant or refinery could send a cloud of hazardous gas wafting across a city (even a burning building can yield toxic gases), so having a mechanism that can notify many people within a few minutes to shelter-in-place [wikipedia.org] or evacuate sounds better than waiting hours for people to find out about it on the news. Tsunamis are another type of disaster where it's important for people to receive warnings as quickly as possible, since there may only be hours or only minutes of warning before it hits, and the earthquake that triggered it may be too far away to have been felt.

I've got no problem with weather or AMBER alerts since you can disable them, in fact weather alerts might actually be useful during tornado season. But just let us disable everything if we don't want it. The entire "presidential alert" just seems like something you'd see in 1984 to spread propaganda.

A "presidential alert" seems much like a natural extension of the Emergency Broadcast System that's been in place in some form since the 1950's (and there's no opt-out for EBS (now EAS) alerts either). Since I rarely listen to radio or broadcast TV, it's unlikely that I'd hear an emergency alert that's not sent to my phone.

Re:Completely useless... (1)

EvilSS (557649) | about a year ago | (#44023381)

"Presidential Alert" is just the renamed national activation. It's the core of the original purpose of the system (going back to the cold war). Since you bring it up, 9/11 did not trigger an EBS (at the time) alert because media coverage was immediate and widespread. Those alerts are really for something imminent and massive (think incoming nuclear missiles, alien invasion, or asteroid). Most likely you will live your entire life and never see one. It is NOT a vehicle for the president to send out political propaganda or campaign messages.

How have we survived without this? (0)

your_mother_sews_soc (528221) | about a year ago | (#44022981)

Really, I'm n years old and it is a miracle I am still alive. I may always forget to bring my bicycle helmet with me but now I feel safer than ever. Will the President soon remind me to brush my teeth before I go to bed (or with the help of the NSA and IRS jack up my dental insurance rates if I don't)? Surely I'll deserve it. Maybe my WiFi enabled light bulbs will be turned off from Washington when they figure if there are three of us in the house but lights are on in four rooms one has to go. (One of us or one of the lights? Cost/benefit ananlysis leans in favor of one of us getting disappeared the next time we get a flu shot at the government overseen dispensary. Just sayin'.

Propaganda (1, Insightful)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about a year ago | (#44023021)

This will primarily be used to put out propaganda things post disaster. "Our hearts ache for the people of LowerDisasterWater. We shall stand together in our unwavering support for their re-emergence as a third rate backwater."

Or worse it will slowly degrade into a useless bunch of PSAs about emergency preparation, evacuation routes, weather warnings, etc. I love how politicians seem to think it is OK to vote for exemptions for themselves in laws that people want without exemptions. Nobody wants robocalling, nobody wants text spam, nobody wants corporate funding of political parties, nobody wants to be molested by the TSA; yet politicians seem to think that it is OK to exempt themselves from all of these things.

I am very very careful about who I give my number out to. The last person I would want to have my number would be a politician.

Re:Propaganda (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44023493)

This will primarily be used to put out propaganda things post disaster

No, it will not. As half a dozen people have already pointed out, national alerts have been part of the Emergency Broadcast System for half a century and have never been used at all.

Re:Propaganda (1)

Omestes (471991) | about a year ago | (#44023585)

This will primarily be used to put out propaganda things post disaster. "Our hearts ache for the people of LowerDisasterWater. We shall stand together in our unwavering support for their re-emergence as a third rate backwater."

Because that happened with EAS on TV and radio. Oh... wait... it didn't.

Re:Propaganda (1)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about a year ago | (#44023757)

Actually it did via various access laws that give politicians very low rates for campaign advertising. The claim behind the laws was that a network has to provide equal time but the reality is that it lowered rates.

Re:Propaganda (1)

Omestes (471991) | about a year ago | (#44023871)

Actually it did via various access laws that give politicians very low rates for campaign advertising. The claim behind the laws was that a network has to provide equal time but the reality is that it lowered rates.

Huh? EAS doesn't even have rates, its emergency broadcast. It has never had advertising, and the idea of equal time on it is not applicable.

Imagine the propoganda power (1)

guanxi (216397) | about a year ago | (#44023027)

"ALERT: Jane Smith sought as dangerous Communist/Muslim/terrorist/undesirable. Anyone with information about her, including her current location, known associates, or any suspicious behavior, should report it immediately to authorities."

Who needs a jury? Someone was just telling me that in the 1950's, they had to subscribe to some mainstream magazines at someone else's address, to avoid being labeled a Communist and having their reputation and career ruined. Imagine if Joe McCarthy had modern IT, including metadata and alert systems.

But don't worry; that could never happen here.

Re:Imagine the propoganda power (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about a year ago | (#44023061)

Who needs EBS/EAS when you have the DOJ, ATF, EPA, CIA and NSA already doing it to your enemies.

Their network (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44023071)

Don't like what they do to your service, choose another.

First presidential alert (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44023077)

"Hey you; yes you! We know you're pirating shit so knock it off. This message paid for by my masters; the MAFIAA"

Already on other phones (2)

crow (16139) | about a year ago | (#44023089)

I received a blizzard warning in February on my Galaxy S3 through Verizon, so apparently the only news is that iPhone is catching up. I suppose there should be some page that tells us which phone/provider combinations provide these messages.

Re:Already on other phones (1)

drcheap (1897540) | about a year ago | (#44023547)

It's a combination of carrier & device. iPhones on Verizon have been getting these alerts for quite some time now. AT&T is the one "catching up" as you say.

refund the costs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44023103)

My current service plan charges me 15 cents per SMS message received. Is the president going to refund this money?

Re:refund the costs? (1)

PNutts (199112) | about a year ago | (#44023253)

RTFA and enjoy "Learning and Growing"!

Re:refund the costs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44023323)

Are you new here? Who reads the articles before commenting?

Hack it to disable it (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44023171)

Would be nice is someone hacked it to disable this. I don't really care about these alerts. I sure don't care what Obama has to say with his presential alerts. And I don't like Att, the government or apple shoving anything on my phone without my permission. It's like forcing motorcycle riders to wear helmets. It is my choice. I have disabled it. I like my freedom thank you.

Re:Hack it to disable it (3, Informative)

EvilSS (557649) | about a year ago | (#44023325)

You realize that the "Presidential Alerts" are for things like imminent nuclear attack and other such "kiss your ass goodbye" national moments? There has never been a national activation of the alert system in the history of the system (going back to the EBS and before that the CONELRAD system. Ever. Not even during 9/11, the most significant event on US soil since Pearl Harbor.

Re:Hack it to disable it (2)

drcheap (1897540) | about a year ago | (#44023559)

... and other such "kiss your ass goodbye" national moments...

Like when dolphins need broadcast "So long, and thanks for all the fish" on their way out?

Re:Hack it to disable it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44023589)

and there had never been a president that murdered united states citizens by dropping missiles on them either, but here we are.

Not that bad (1)

Fuzzums (250400) | about a year ago | (#44023191)

This is actually useful. This in contrast to the usual ^H^H^H^H applications that are pre installed and can not be removed.

Did two summaries get merged? (1)

FuzzNugget (2840687) | about a year ago | (#44023197)

Because what do emergency broadcast warnings have to do with the NSA scandal? At best, it's a very labored way of expressing distaste.

And who's the dipshit engineer who thought this would be best as a whole new system that needs to be implemented differently for every OS and only work on smartphones? Why not just broadcast an SMS and call it a day?

Use for AMBER alerts improper and dangerous. (3, Insightful)

jo7hs2 (884069) | about a year ago | (#44023389)

I was furious when they started using weather radios to announce AMBER alerts and I'm equally annoyed they are extending that to this system as well. These systems were designed for major public emergencies. Use for AMBER alerts and other emergencies impacting only small groups of people will only encourage people to ignore or deactivate their alert enabled devices. Here where I live, weather radios routinely go off for AMBER alerts. The average radio also goes off for a variety of minor weather issues, rather than only triggering for weather warnings. Many people simply unplug their radios after being woken up one too many times by a screaming alert radio letting them know there is a thunderstorm WATCH or AMBER alert. I imagine people will similarly disable all the available phone alerts, because the system will simply trigger far to often and annoy them. I know the very first thing I did when I read this article was find and disable the AMBER alert option. The settings were omitting from the article. You can find them in Settings >> Notifications, located at the bottom. There are two options, one to disable/enable AMBER alerts and another to disabled/enable "Emergency Alerts."

Not just AT&T (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44023413)

Metro PCS is already doing it. I noticed it on my texting app. I cannot uncheck "Presidential Alerts"

People of Earth, Your Attention Please (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44023443)

Nice to know that when the Vogons come to demolish the planet we'll get a text message about it.

Bravo... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44023445)

Full points for false equivalence. I hope there's a natural disaster that wipes out your entire family except you, but you jailbroke/rooted everyone's phones to get rid of this so no one in your family sees the alert. Then you can live the rest of your life knowing that because you think a message saying "hey, we've got some crazy tornadoes" is the same as being spied on.

Annoying (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44023449)

I don't care to hear anything from the President. (And it doesn't really matter which one who is sitting in the big chair at the time.) Those of you who value what a President has to say are free to listen, of course, but the less politicians have to do with me, the better I like it. I dislike politicians trying to force me to listen to them.

I'll figure out a way to prevent these from coming to my phone. Annoying that I need to bother, though.

Booh Apple - or something (2)

Plumpaquatsch (2701653) | about a year ago | (#44023623)

http://www.att.com/esupport/article.jsp?sid=KB410692&cv=820#fbid=X5Yfnrwu8Fd [att.com]

AT&T has several wireless devices that are WEA capable, including new 4G LTE devices. WEA capable devices will display the following logo on the packaging and in the device instruction manual:

Wireless Emergency Alerts Capable Logo

The following AT&T devices are WEA capable*:

  • Samsung Galaxy S4 (SGH-i337)
  • Samsung Galaxy SII (SGH-i777)
  • Samsung Captivate Glide (SGH-i927)
  • Samsung Galaxy Appeal (SGH-i827)
  • LG Optimus G Pro (E980)
  • BlackBerry 9360, 9810, 9860, 9900
  • Motorola Atrix 2 (mb865)
  • AT&T Fusion 2 (Huawei U8665)
  • Alcatel 510A
  • Alcatel 871A

http://www.slashgear.com/google-now-update-brings-emergency-alerts-to-android-4-1-jelly-bean-30244815/ [slashgear.com]

There are three new features to note in this Google Now update: ... Support for emergency messages has been added in this update as well, giving you severe weather warnings and other emergency alerts right on your Now page. This will undoubtedly come in handy for the more turbulent areas of the world, and it could potentially save a few lives, so it’s good to have it along.

Yawn. (1)

jd2112 (1535857) | about a year ago | (#44023643)

I've had this for months on my Sprint Android phone.
I have actually received alerts for a couple of severe storms that passed through my area.

iPhone only (1)

Mozai (3547) | about a year ago | (#44023661)

Sooo.... people with celphones will be warned about city- or state-wide disasters... but only if they bought a particular product from one particular vendor?

Are Apple customers the only ones worth warning? I know, I know, "even restricting warnings to people owning a celphone w/ service is elitist," but this strikes me as being too elitist when it is iPhones only.

Re:iPhone only (1)

Aerokii (1001189) | about a year ago | (#44023833)

I've been using the Galaxy note since late December, and I've gotten only one alert- an Amber alert. It's definitely not just iPhone that has this, they're just a little late to the party.

And for those who worry about what this might be used for... again, I've seen it all of once. No propaganda, no spam, no cost to me.

Re:iPhone only (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44024327)

No jackass, it's also on Android. Sheesh, the anti-Apple hatred around here has reached critical mass. No wonder Slashdot is the least read technical site now.

STAND BY for PRESIDENTIAL EBS MESSAGE (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44024215)

the Presidential alert cannot be turned off

The lunatic he smoked the grass.
The lunatic he smoked the grass.
Forgotten promises, and tele-prompted laughs.
Got to keep the loonies on the path.

The lunatic is down the hall.
His secret room is down the hall.
He taps us all, 641B on the door.
And every day the paper boy brings more.

And if the dam breaks open many years too soon
And confusion paralyzes Capitol Hill
And if Iran explodes with oil-stained thunder too
I'll see you on the dark side of the moon.

The President is in my head.
The President is in my head.
You raise your phone, you take the call
Antisocialized medicine for one and all

He locks the door
And throws away the key
NDAA for you and me.

And if the bubble bursts, Bernanke in your ear
You shout but no one seems to fear.
As the dollar implodes like a punctured balloon
I'll see you on the dark side of the moon.

("I can't think of anything to say except...I think it's marvelous! HaHaHa!")

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