GPS/location services & emergency alerts

I currently live in the US, and we get various emergency alerts, such as those for weather or missing children. These are known as “Emergency” or “AMBER” alerts. We have the option to disable these types of notifications, although most people do not.

We recently received an emergency alert which is being called a “presidential alert.” It was part of a system that is being tested, by which anyone carrying a cell phone will receive an alert in the event of a national emergency. We do not have the option to opt-out of these messages.

As I’ve been researching things, I have heard very conflicting information regarding the presidential alert (PA). Some sources have claimed that these alerts are sent via an E911 chip, which would allow access to a phone’s location, and potentially access to its microphone or camera. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) states on their website that the alerts are being sent via the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) and Emergency Alert System (EAS), in coordination with the FCC. They do not specify if this system can or cannot access the location of the phone receiving the alert.

I am curious if these presidential alerts have the ability to create a two-way connection with a phone, which would potentially allow for triangulation of a phone’s location, or if these alerts are one-way and don’t involve a confirmation on behalf of the receiving end. More specifically, how would /e/ interact on a phone in an area that was receiving notifications such as a PA, and would /e/ integrate into its programming the ability to activate or silence these types of notifications at the behest of the user?

(I haven’t installed /e/ onto any phones yet, I’m waiting on the Nexus 5 that I ordered online for the purpose of trying it out.)

McAfee is on crack and everything he says should be understood as such.

I would suggest taking a look at this:

and this:

and this, too:

And then to get a clear view of what the E911 system is all about:

There’s no such thing as an e911 chip. It’s a system. And it’s entirely possible to determine an individual’s location without a specialized chip. Your telecom operator knows with some accuracy your location by the strength of your signal when compared to surrounding towers as part of normal operations. Furthermore, when a call is placed to 911 from your phone, your gps is activated and your position is transmitted to 911 dispatch. It’s not only baked into the cell broadcast standards, but it’s also basked into agreements between telecoms and the government. See here for how the system works in practice:

According to someone on Reddit, you can disable the emergency broadcasts via TWRP:

I don’t recommend disabling emergency notifications though. E911 hasn’t been abused, is closely monitored, and is potentially life-saving.

I hope this helps a bit, and that some of your fears about E911 have been alleviated, but if your threat assessment requires you to be concerned about mic and camera jacking, I would look toward the librem 5 by Purism.


Yes all the above links are good resources. The short answer it is a one way push to all devices connected to each cell tower. Interestingly I even had an old cell phone that did not have a SIM card installed get the message.

Ha, this just made my day! Yeah, it makes more sense as an expanded emergency service than something to be concerned about. Then again, attempting to google stuff late at night to figure out what something is about often leads to strange rabbit holes.

Other than more basic security services, I’m not concerned about my phone’s microphone or camera being hacked. I mean, if someone REALLY wanted to listen in on my boring class lectures as a way of curing their insomnia, sure, but there are far better cures for insomnia out there.

I’m happy you asked the question. It’s super important to get these facts right. Rumors like the ones McAfee spreads make people feel so helpless about managing their digital lives. Like, how would you defend yourself against something like an E911 chip? It’s this type of information that makes people just say fuck it and put their entire lives on Google Drive and Facebook.

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