The US President Can Mass-Message Everyone In The United States Any Time

Yup, the President Can Mass-Message Everyone in the Country Any Time

The President of the United States can mass-message the entire phone-carrying nation at the same time whenever he deems it necessary, as a Wall Street Journal video reminded us today.

Unless you're carrying around a very old device, there is a special chip in your phone that makes sure official POTUS messages can always go through, no matter what. Phone manufacturers are required to include these chips in devices, due an extension of the Emergency Alert Network enacted in 2012 that allows the president to get in contact with anyone, anywhere in the US, whenever it's necessary.

The chip allows phones to receive presidentail emergency alerts when they enter a specific geographic area. Technically, it's not actually a text. (So you'll never see Sent From my BlackBerry on emergency warnings from the president.) It's a specialised message form developed for emergencies.

These warnings have a unique vibration and sound alert, and they're sent to any phone within a geographic radius of a cell tower. Unlike Amber Alerts and weather emergency alerts, there is no way to opt out of the presidential text. It's compulsory.

Oddly enough, if you do get a presidential emergency alert and you're on the phone, it won't show up until after you've finished your conversation. I guess the apocalypse can wait?

[Wall Street Journal]

Picture: Whitehouse/Pete Souza


Comments

    Would this work if you're a tourist visiting the US with a phone made overseas, piggy-backing off a US service provider?

    This is interesting but doesn't seem really relevant to the Australian site... Is there something like this in Australia as well?

      Yes.

      In Adelaide we recently had several areas evacuated because of bushfires.
      Messages were sent via signal towers to any mobile using that tower.

    Oddly enough, if you do get a presidential emergency alert and you’re on the phone, it won’t show up until after you’ve finished your conversation. I guess the apocalypse can wait?
    Secretly a form of state-mandated natural selection. Anyone who spends so long on the phone that they aren't able to receive a warning message in time will be scooped from the gene pool by apocalypse.

    My guess is that it is a reply service built on the old MMI delivery system. Its not really an SMS then, as much as a code that all manufacturers tend to opt into as it is a standard. I know that Telstra uses this system predominantly for its prepaid services in the form of #100#.

    Question: A single point for messaging everyone in a country, why hasnt this been hacked yet ?

      I would not be surprised if the technology interfacing with it is A) one of the most heavily-guarded things in the country, and B) mostly analogue, hardened.

      But I would also not be surprised if that now that more people know about it, more people 'try it on'.

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