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FCC Votes To Upgrade Emergency Smartphone Alerts (cnn.com) 103

After recent bombings, the Federal Communications Commission has voted to update the four-year-old emergency smartphone alerts system, which is used by officials to ping smartphones to alert people of severe weather, missing children, terror attacks or other danger. Some of the new changes allow the system to send texts with links to pictures, maps and phone numbers. CNNMoney reports: The agency also voted to allow longer messages -- 360 characters, up from 90 -- and to require wireless providers to support Spanish-language alerts. Wireless carriers will be allowed to support embedded links later this year. They'll be required to next year. The system's limits were on display last week when millions of New Yorkers received a text alert seeking information on Ahmad Khan Rahami, suspected in bombings in New York and New Jersey. "See media for pic," the alert said. Emergency alerts still won't include embedded photos, but commissioners said they're open to the idea. "Vague directives in text about where to find information about a suspect, just as we saw in New York, are not good enough," said Jessica Rosenworcel, an FCC commissioner. "As we move into the 5G future, we need to ensure that multimedia is available in all of our alert messages." Not everyone was so sure. Michael O'Rielly, another commissioner, said adding links and multimedia could jam cell networks during emergencies.
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FCC Votes To Upgrade Emergency Smartphone Alerts

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  • by whoever57 ( 658626 ) on Thursday September 29, 2016 @06:25PM (#52985969) Journal

    After the alert mechanism was misused in my state for an Amber alert for an incident hundreds of miles away, I turned these alerts off.

    I suspect more people would turn them off if they knew how (it's not obvious on Android -- used to be in settings, but then moved into the messaging app).

    • by Geoffrey.landis ( 926948 ) on Thursday September 29, 2016 @06:48PM (#52986075) Homepage

      After the alert mechanism was misused in my state for an Amber alert for an incident hundreds of miles away, I turned these alerts off.

      Exactly the same here: After I was woken up from sleep at 2AM by an Amber Alert for a child that purportedly missing 200 miles away (who turned out to be with her father) I turned the alerts OFF.

      However, in their favor, the adjustments to the alert system also are going to improve the geographical targetting, so that they will be more narrowly broadcast to just the areas affected:
      http://nymag.com/selectall/201... [nymag.com]
      http://www.theverge.com/2016/9... [theverge.com]

      • Exactly the same here. Didn't get my wits scared out of me at 3 AM, but I heard about it the next day and immediately disabled the stupid thing.
      • However, in their favor, the adjustments to the alert system also are going to improve the geographical targetting, so that they will be more narrowly broadcast to just the areas affected

        I kind of doubt that will make a difference for amber alerts. I think the idea is that the kidnapper can have driven a long ways away by the time the alert is made, so they will invariably make it blanket a large area. I still turn off the amber alerts though because every time I've had one happen, I've either been in bed or been in my office with no chance of hitting the road to be able to see the perpmobile speeding away.

        I also turn off the severe weather alerts because we routinely get severe heat warnin

        • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
          We get flash flood warnings before the weather hits. Saw a blob of red about 1/4 the size of the state, figured something was going to happen. About 4 hours before the storm got here, flash flood warnings went out.
    • by wjcofkc ( 964165 )
      The alert on my phone was used to find a child 200 miles away. What more need be said. ---no question mark.
      • The alert on my phone was used to find a child 200 miles away. What more need be said. ---no question mark.

        What more needs to be said is how that alert ON YOUR PHONE was used to find that child 200 miles away. Be specific. Words like "When I got that alert, I [took action X] that resulted in finding a child that was 200 miles away from me" would be good. The words "the alert was received by someone else who [took action Y] ..." don't count when you claim it was the alert ON YOUR PHONE that resulted in the save.

        Otherwise this is just more nonsense and arrogance from someone who claims he's been here since the bi

    • Yup. Amber alert from San Diego woke me up at 1am in San Francisco. I hunted down that setting and turned it off that same night. Though that is such a seldom-used setting that each new iPhone since then has had it's one amber alert to remind me that the "feature" still exists and I need to kill it.

    • I was driving on my twisty, deer-riddled, surprisingly high-traffic back county road when the loudest, most annoying noise I've ever heard from inside my car scared the crap out of me. I had absolutely no idea what sound could be coming from because I had disabled notifications on my phones before driving. It actually took me a few minutes to figure out that my iPhone was giving me an Amber alert for somewhere far enough away to not be relevant to me, and definitely far more distracting than glancing at a t
    • I suspect more people would turn them off if they knew how (it's not obvious on Android -- used to be in settings, but then moved into the messaging app).

      I suspect that the *only* people that hear these alerts are the people that don't know how to turn them off.

    • Same here.

      I use an old Android phone as an alarm clock. It doesn't have cell service but was still hooked up to the wifi. I was awoken one morning for a severe weather alert that was not even in my location.

      I turned that function off.

      Interestingly, my main phone (a Microsoft Lumia) does still have the alerts turned on and appears to only give relevant alerts.... not sure how or why that would be... isn't it the same system?

  • The FCC needs to fuck the right off.

    How many people are they killing a year by disrupting sleep (which results in accidents) and distracting drivers with those "alert" texts that are rarely applicable?

    • by msauve ( 701917 )
      It's also a free speech issue. We have a right to be free from government mandated speech - the FCC is overstepping its authority.
    • My favorite was when I was working in a large office shortly after this was pushed out in both Android and iOS, and the carriers turned it on - there was an Amber alert and you could hear that loud as fuck sound coming from hundreds of phones across the building and everyone wondering what in the hell was going on.

      And why is that alert three times louder than any other sound the phone is capable of making? Are the just begging for people to get pissed and turn it off?

    • How many people are they killing a year by disrupting sleep (which results in accidents) and distracting drivers with those "alert" texts that are rarely applicable?

      Probably about the same amount as the people who had an aneurysm reading this insanely stupid comment.

    • The FCC needs to fuck the right off.

      How many people are they killing a year by disrupting sleep (which results in accidents) and distracting drivers with those "alert" texts that are rarely applicable?

      I sincerely hope this is a Poe.

  • As long as we, the consumers have FULL CONTROL over what alerts we get. We should have the ability to turn off/on whatever we want. If you (the government) want to have them on by default for new devices, fine; but we should be able to decide how and what to get. Don't act like you (the government) have some *right* to communicate with our devices in any way you choose.

    For example, I don't give a **** about amber alerts, there are days I am not out in the public and it serves no purpose but to annoy me.

    • by sims 2 ( 994794 )

      No you don't have full control now.
      On my phone it says at the very top of the alerts settings screen "Presidential Alerts are mandatory."

      So I can't disable those and now i'm just waiting for a president to use it for their re-election campaign.

      Otherwise I can disable "Extreme Alert", "Severe Alert" and "AMBER Alert".

      I like many others think the amber alert gives way to many alerts for crap going on in other states so it's turned off on my phone too.

      They only seem to send out the tornado warnings and flood w

      • The funny thing is that the last time a flood warning came around on my phone, it was a full 5 minutes after two weather apps had sent me a push notification for it. How is a directed notification from an application service faster than a cell broadcast?

        • Someone has to push the alerts to the cell network in the first place. And there are one or more government contractors involved in that...

  • And I'm just suppose to click on a link [youtube.com]...

  • I have found this system useful. Although it is painful to hear that emergency signal go off minutes before the sirens go off, it may yet save my life. Also, I can attest that it has returned at least a couple small kids to their rightful guardian over the years. One of these was not a relative but an outright pedophile. To the detractors who say, "But it cannot be disabled!"... I cite my second experience over the first of my own life and say so fucking what? Are you going to complain about the TV you no l
    • by tippen ( 704534 )

      I have found this system useful.

      So enable it on YOUR phone and let everyone else decide whether they want it or not on their phones.

      • by wjcofkc ( 964165 )
        No.
        • Yes.

          Sorry, My taxes pay for the people to actually fix those things.

          I don't need to be alerted by an amber alert in channahon when I am shopping in south chicago heights - that was when I disabled the stupid thing.It's over an hour away from me and to be honest, it was a description of a black honda car.

          So like, how many of them are there?

          • Exactly. There have been many examples where this system completely fails - a kid missing from San Diego, yet Amber alerts being broadcast in San Francisco, 500 miles north. Or an Amber alert for a kid in Cincinnati, OH that isn't broadcast into either Kentucky or Indiana, which are less than 20 minutes away from downtown Cincinnati if there is no traffic. Kentucky is just over one of the bridges from downtown FFS.

            Or, reverse that and they do broadcast into Kentucky and Indiana - I'm sure people on the o

    • by wjcofkc ( 964165 )
      Only on Slashdot does this get modded down. For the children? Of course.
      • by lgw ( 121541 )

        Nothing more tired, played out, and stupid as a "for the children" argument.

    • by wjcofkc ( 964165 )
      I am going to reply to myself one time and one time only. Under one ID or another I have been on here since day one. I remember when this sprouted from Malda's Chips and Dips. Why under one ID or another? Because of the bullshit majority that I see responding to this. Fuck you and fuck you. I had a three digit ID? Why not still? Because fuck you and fuck you. I remember when Rusty had the right idea. Too bad that went the way it did... Otherwise I might be having this conversation with at least half-way int
      • Fuck you and fuck you. fuck you and fuck you. Fuck you and fuck you all the way up to 964164. And fuck you for modding this instead of saying something smart or smart ass!

        It's sad when someone mixes meth, coffee, and a desire to control others.

        Chillaxe, brah - you can't control other people, and you're tearing yourself apart with anger in the attempt. I suggest Valerian root capsules, maybe some St John's Wort as well. Even out those moods without turning yourself into a prescription drug zombie.

        And if you want the alerts, by all means take them. But you can't demand that others do that.

    • One of these was not a relative but an outright pedophile.

      Most kiddie touchers are relatives. Having a kiddie toucher not be a relative doesn't make them more of a pedophile. It actually makes them unusual.

      To the detractors who say, "But it cannot be disabled!"... I cite my second experience over the first of my own life and say so fucking what? Are you going to complain about the TV you no longer watch and the radio you no longer listen to?

      What the fuck are you on about? I don't complain about the TV and the radio because they don't turn themselves on to tell me about something I don't need to know about. If it's 10 PM and I've been at home all day, an AMBER alert will do precisely no good. The phone has enough sensors to decide whether I need this alert without phoning home.

      Fuck off and I hope you never have kids in a situation that makes you oh so personally give a shit.

      I won't, because I did

      • Most kiddie touchers are relatives

        I'm not sure that still holds statistically when there's an abduction involved.

        • I'm not sure that still holds statistically when there's an abduction involved.

          I don't know either, but I'd guess that it does, because most abductions are by relatives. But hey, maybe those particular groups don't overlap much.

          • I would bet that most abductions by relatives are custody-related. I'm not sure there's a reliable source on numbers for something so specific either way.

    • I have found this system useful. Although it is painful to hear that emergency signal go off minutes before the sirens go off, it may yet save my life. Also, I can attest that it has returned at least a couple small kids to their rightful guardian over the years. One of these was not a relative but an outright pedophile. To the detractors who say, "But it cannot be disabled!"... I cite my second experience over the first of my own life and say so fucking what? Are you going to complain about the TV you no longer watch and the radio you no longer listen to? Fuck off and I hope you never have kids in a situation that makes you oh so personally give a shit. Now find some flawed grammar and call it out.

      Who says it can't be disabled? And who says they you are the determinant of what other people's phones do?

      Let's use your logic.

      We need a newer and better amber alert system. Did you know that some people have theirs alerts turned off? Did you know that there are still some people who don't have smartphones or televisions or have those turned off as well?

      In order to achieve the needed granularity for the effective deployment of Amber alerts, we must immediately send police door to door to alert every

  • Phone is good for specific people to call you when needed. i.e. alarm tech, plumber, physician, EMT on standby. Or when calling ARES/RACES hams when needed. Weather alert, there are those radios that activate to NOAA alert transmission. Amber alerts, BOL for stolen vehicle, robbers, etc. the phone is something at first glance might be useful but everyone will suffer alarm fatigue and eventually will ignore further alerts. Probably news media more effective, or those that monitor police on their scanners mig

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      It also depends on how many cell towers still have full battery power or mandated working generators, fuel supply, expert staff to keep generators working.
      Or staff on site to fix a generator that stopped after a very short time or that never started.
      The move away from POTS with extended exchange power to complex copper, part optical or coax digital phone networks may also have short term power options over time.
      AM and FM radio might be the only network left when small battery backup fail on cell and oth
    • You say a phone is a terrible device but all your complaints are related to alarm system mismanagement and none about the user of a phone itself. A device used by the majority of the people you wish to alert is a good device.

  • "The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
    but I have promises to keep.
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep."

  • Can you imagine hacking the system and sending out an alert with a link to malware, beautiful .
    • Can you imagine hacking the system and sending out an alert with a link to malware, beautiful .

      It's better than that.

      The system itself is malware!

      The only ones who get these typically-useless/out-of-locational-context alerts anyways are people with smartphones. Good luck warning Grandma or the poor with this waste of tax money who don't and likely will never have a smartphone. But thank God Mr. & Mrs. BMW get alerts at Starbucks paid for by the working-poor while they sit and sip their $8 lattes!

      Strat

      • The only ones who get these typically-useless/out-of-locational-context alerts anyways are people with smartphones.

        Conjecture, nothing to do with technology. I've received one such alert, for a chemical plant on fire a few streets away. A quick survey of people I know showed it was only given to people within the immediate vicinity. The fact that some idiots misuse it has nothing to do with the technology.

        Good luck warning Grandma or the poor with this waste of tax money who don't and likely will never have a smartphone.

        Yeah 76% of the people in my country have smartphones. 2/3rds of Americans have smartphones. Using this features is such a waste of taxpayer dollars because ... errr... wait what else do you propose can instantly get i

      • It's better than that.

        The system itself is malware!

        The only ones who get these typically-useless/out-of-locational-context alerts anyways are people with smartphones. Good luck warning Grandma or the poor with this waste of tax money who don't and likely will never have a smartphone. But thank God Mr. & Mrs. BMW get alerts at Starbucks paid for by the working-poor while they sit and sip their $8 lattes!

        Strat

        Congratulations for making one of the most non-sequitur, incoherent rants I've ever read.

        Now quick - call me a libtard or spout some nonsense about me trying to take your guns away.

    • by ledow ( 319597 )

      My very first thought.

      And I'm sure there's a switch somewhere that means it gets delivered to you even if you've opted out (I'm assuming that's possible), in case there's a serious incident.

      One hacker, brief access to the system, and a malicious link or even just photograph if they can craft it just right, and make it look innocuous so people look at it and just delete it rather than get into a panic. Voila... millions of compromised devices.

      Seriously, this is the most big-brother feature I've ever heard o

    • by Agripa ( 139780 )

      Can you imagine hacking the system and sending out an alert with a link to malware, beautiful .

      I do not have to; I have a system with Microsoft Windows.

  • Despite living in an area that gets tornadoes, I decided I'd to take my chances and shut it off, rather than have my smartphone screech at me, every time somebody is having a domestic dispute.

  • Don't use them, don't need them. Just another way for the government to make you "feel" safe. Bunch of useless crap!
    • Hey everyone, I found the anti-establishment man who's never lived through a serious crisis before.

      No doubt you'll be the first to complain about not being informed when everyone else is hiding in shelters because of [insert disaster here]

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