Government to Take Control of Your Cell Phone?

As we reported a number of times last year, the federal government is revamping the emergency alert system and requiring all cell phone manufacturers to comply with the PLAN program (Personal Localized Alerting Network).

PLAN allows the federal government to send emergency alert messages directly to your cell phone.  The new program was rolled out in a number of cities late last year, and is now in the process of being fully implemented throughout the country.

A number of mainstream media outlets announced the news with headlines like “FEMA to Begin Sending Weather Alerts to Your Cell Phone. 

But is There More to the Story?

While the emergency management community heralds the new Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) as a great technological achievement that will save a number of lives, some in the privacy community are not so sure. It seems the new alert system may have a dark side.

IPAWS LOGOWhile it’s true that the new WEA system will be able to send weather alerts directly to your cell phone, there are a number of features that have some in the privacy community up in arms.

WEA is part of FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) which already has the ability to send government alerts through satellite, cell phone, digital radio, internet, digital road signs, NOAA Radio and commercial broadcast television. IPAWS, which has been plagued by troubles since its launch, is now drawing criticism after news broke that the new WEA system would be able to follow cellphone users anywhere in the country.

While cell phone users can opt out of receiving the weather alerts, it’s not clear if they will have the ability to opt out of the geo-location features. But not so surprisingly, the location feature may just be the tip of the privacy iceberg.

Make way for Text Messages from the President.

president textingOne not so publicized feature of this new WEA system is the presidential alert feature. Without the ability to opt-out, your cell phone will now be able to receive presidential alerts directly from the President of the United States.

In compliance with the National Alerting Program, new cell phones will all be chipped to allow these alerts. For those with older cell phones, software upgrades will be loaded to their phones through the phone’s connection with the cell network.

While government officials insist the Presidential Alerts will only be used in the case of a national emergency, what constitutes a national emergency has yet to be defined.


  1. kodybreakssht
    June 25, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    *new text message from the president of the united states*
    The following is a national emergency message
    “I have ran out of Pepsi. does anyone have a Pepsi?”

    stupid big brother technology is for competent people.

  2. Donttrendonme
    June 25, 2012 at 12:54 pm


  3. Gator
    June 25, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    I have been a Ham radio operator for about 35 years. One thing that I learned a long time ago, is that getting “INFO” out as fast as possible can save lives. If a storm is fast approaching, the public must be informed quickly! Most people carry a cellphone at all times so using the WEA system is a great way to alert a very larger part of the public quickly. Most people do not carry a Weather Radio with them, most are left at home if they even have one. I really feel that cars & trucks on the road should have a Weather Radio as part of their AM/FM radio system. As far as “Tracking You” they can & do
    that all the time by using your cellphone signal to locate you! That’s nothing new. Last item is the Prez sending us all a message…maybe He or She is in a strange town and wants to know “What’s the best pizza shop in town?” :-)

  4. Jimmy Cracked Corn
    June 26, 2012 at 10:48 am

    President: Does anyone know where Jimmy Cracked Corn is right now?
    PLAN associate: According to his phone’s GPS he is traveling on Highway 66 between St. Louis and Chesterfield.
    President: Move in.

  5. millenniumfly
    June 26, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    As with any new technology or use of it, there will be good and bad that come of it.

  6. JayOfAllTrades
    June 27, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    I agree that the speed and access to information can be critical. I am a trained weather spotter, and carry a NOAA radio with me all the time. It has no idea where you are, it is programmed with a code that is area specific, but to a fairly large area. (Generally by county.) I also have one at home as well. Worth the $30, especially for me, but also to anyone else as well. But I really dislike the idea of letting people into my phone, and check my location at any time. (I’ll bet that you can opt-out, but your location is still accessed when “needed” anyway.) Guess I am keeping my older phone, and rooting it.

  7. Bishop
    July 2, 2012 at 6:06 am

    I’ve always had an issue with cellphones and privacy, hence the reason I don’t have one. Yes, my friends and family get annoyed with me when they can’t track me down, but I really don’t care, if I wanted them to know where to find me I would let them know, but in this day and age everyone seems to think you have to have a leash everywhere you go…not this dog

  8. Denise
    July 7, 2012 at 10:17 am

    If you take the battery out of your phone I believe that you then cannot be tracked.

    • Corey
      July 13, 2012 at 3:22 am

      Your wrong, google sim card GPS, someone from my highschool stole my phone took the battery out at thought the same thing, i paid AT&T there tracking fee (15 bucks) and they tracked it, gps can be in the sim card, its not neccessary in the actually device, and it doens’t require batterys so to speak. its scary how technology is progressing! and to think im only 15! who knows how bad it will be by the time im in my older age

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