By Greg Mills
Heros of our privacy in the USA, like Senator Al Franken, put Apple and Google on the hot spot for surreptitiously tracking smart phones.
With this secret assault upon our location privacy still simmering in the news, FEMA has pushed the FCC to add a “special” chip to all smart phones, to enable the US government to alert us with text like messages. The alerts are local and all the big cell phone networks are on board. Adding another set of initials to our vocabulary, “PLAN” is short for Personal Localized Alerting Network.
The chip is mandatory on cell phones coming out next year and hooks up with GPS. It is unknown at this time what security issues are involved and how this is all going to shake out. The cell phone emergency notification PLAN is expected to have Presidential level alerts that are not to be user disabled. Local emergency alerts and Amber alerts may be turned off as the PLAN exists now. The alerts will produce a special ringtone, vibration and graphical alert that will give the specific local alert information.
The cell phone emergency alert system is sort of like the broadcast TV and Radio alerts of the past. “Beep … Beep …. Beep … Had this been an actual emergency, this station would have given emergency information to its listeners …. This was only a test.” The notion is that with technology as advanced as it is in smart phone development, such an emergency system is logical.
Imagine an alert activating your smart phone “This is an emergency alert from FEMA, this is not a test: A tornado is being tracked on the ground headed your direction. You have less than five minutes to take cover. If the tornado continues on its current heading serious damage to buildings and loss of life will occur in its path.”
The concerns about privacy may be relived with more information that is sure to come out soon. The knee-jerk reaction to the government adding a mandatory chip to all cell phones is a bit scary to me. It seems like this feature could be added to existing smart phones without a special mandatory chip. The history of governments around the world is that technology that can be abused, is abused,often in the name of security.
While the chances of a Presidential alert coming to your cell phone, “Go Vote for me, the polls close soon in your area” are remote, who knows how all this is going to actually work. If the “alert broadcast” is localized without tracking individual phones and no location log is maintained anywhere, I suppose there is little harm.
The problem is when you don’t trust the government any further than you can throw it (which isn’t very far), suspicions are bound to come up. The first city for the PLAN to be turned on is New York City and Washington DC. The PLAN will be rolled out across the country within a year.
I first noticed the story about the “PLAN” today while reading “MacDailyNews.” My thanks to MacDailyNews.com and its Webmaster, who added some of his articulate sarcasm and a famous quote from Ben Franklin that is perfectly apropos: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”
That is Greg’s Bite on the “PLAN”; more on this issue soon.
(Greg Mills is currently a graphic and Faux Wall Artist in Kansas City. Formerly a new product R&D man for the paint sundry market, he holds 11 US patents. Greg is an Extra Class Ham Radio Operator, AB6SF, iOS developer and web site designer. He’s also working on a solar energy startup using a patent pending process for turning waste dual pane glass window units into thermal solar panels used to heat water see: www.CottageIndustrySolar.com Married, with one daughter, Greg writes for intellectual property web sites and on Mac/Tech related issues. See Greg’s art web site at http://www.gregmills.info He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org )