You guys get a .gov text yesterday?

I’d forgotten all about that, never having been more than peripherally aware of it to begin with. But I got a phone call from a neighbor around 10, asking if I’d gotten this FEMA “emergency alert” text. I said no, I guess they don’t think I have the need to know. She wondered because she hadn’t gotten one either.

Turns out she had the time wrong, and at precisely 11:15 I got this annoying “emergency” message telling me there was no emergency. Thanks for the help, FEMA.

Now that I think of it, I should fire up a burner phone and see if dumbphones got it. If I start getting daily texts of Trump’s twitter feed I’m going to become a nevertrumper.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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11 Responses to You guys get a .gov text yesterday?

  1. Bear says:

    My Tracfone flipphone got it. Any phone that can receive SMS messages should have gotten it.

  2. Ben says:

    That’s really sobering when you think of it. The long arm of the government reached out even into the trackless waste of the high desert to grab Joel by the…telephone.

  3. Zelda says:

    That’s because you can run, Ben, but you can’t hide since the FCC regulation that allowed the government to track all of us, all the time, even when our phones are off (unless we take the battery out, maybe). Our phones have to be GPS 911 capable. I’ve read that even when a battery appears to be dead it can still broadcast a GPS location. I had to give up my wonderful Motorola StarTac dual analog/digital flip phone, the best phone ever made IMHO, when it needed repairs and federal regs prohibited fixing it because it couldn’t be tracked. It gave me a certain level of comfort to know that my StarTac was protecting my privacy. I think you can still get and use them as burner phones from prepaid carriers. Where Joel lives may look like a trackless waste to him, but if he has a modern cell phone the government knows exactly where he is, all the time, and for how long, thanks to his cell phone.

  4. Mike says:

    Remember that old “Emergency Broadcast System” alert that used to come on your TV with a shrill siren and a text message informing you it was “only a test”? Well yesterday’s emergency SMS was the modern equivalent.

    Zelda, Ben: There are only three ways I know of to track a turned off cell phone, infect it with a Trojan, have a Trojan installed as part of the original firmware (or firmware update) or with a specifically installed micro chip at point of manufacture. The Chinese were caught doing this a while ago and that was why the US banned Chinese networking companies like Huawei and ZTE. These three things could force a cellphone to play dead yet continue emitting a signal, even if the phone is in standby mode. Also remember, if you have an old cellphone and think you’re safe, some older phones may only look turned off. But… They have a baseband processor that powers up every 10 minutes(ish) to retrieve texts, but not phone calls and this is where the Trojan come in.

    So the only way to be sure that a cellphone is off, is to remove the battery. When the battery is removed, the compromised cellphone will not have the power source so it can’t emit signals and is unable to share its location details.

  5. Claire says:

    My 3G TracFone dumbphone, which does get SMS, didn’t get the non-alert.

    I seem to live in a shadow where cell service sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t, but previously that affected voice calls, never SMS. Not sure what’s up. But I don’t mind a bit if the fedgov can’t find my phone.

  6. Bear says:

    Zelda: “Our phones have to be GPS 911 capable. I’ve read that even when a battery appears to be dead it can still broadcast a GPS location. I had to give up my wonderful Motorola StarTac dual analog/digital flip phone, the best phone ever made IMHO, when it “

    Did a salesman tell you that? All cellphones do not have GPS, and it isn’t required. All cellphones can be tracked, with or without GPS. If your phone lacks GPS to report a location, the system simply use TDOA triangulation to locate you.

    Eventually all NEW phones will have GPS to meet new accuracy requirements. It hasn’t been determined (so far as I’ve heard) how grandfathering will be handled.

    Possibly you had to get a new phone because it wasn’t 3G capable. 2G support is being phased out all around the world. 2G vs 3G vs 4G is comm protocol, and has nothing to do with locating you.

  7. Mike says:

    Claire… there’s still a few bugs in the system. Rest assured… they will eventually find you.

  8. Tennessee Budd says:

    My old Samsung flip-phone using Verizon didn’t get it. I have no idea what SMS is, so I don’t know if my phone gets SMS or not.

  9. I was prepared to be indignant about the “reach out and touch someone’ nonsense – but my old thick-as-a-brick Nokia flip didn’t peep.

    I’ve already had a few go-rounds with my provider about not enabling texts – so I figured I might get the alert. Funny – the last time I told them I didn’t want to receive (or pay for) texts – they texted me to confirm.

  10. Kentucky says:

    My old Motorola/Verizon flipper didn’t get it. Of course, it was, and remains, turned off unless I need to place a call when I’m away from home.

  11. Zelda says:

    Bear, nope, no salesman. I had my StarTac forever and the case finally disintegrated, just crumpled into pieces, after the federal mandate went into effect. I thought just putting a new case on it wouldn’t violate any laws, but the mobile phone service refused to do it based on the new federal regs which prohibited them from keeping any phone functional that couldn’t be tracked. There was a huge fuss about it and I don’t remember any discussion about TDOA at the time although you’d think there would have been one. The tech stuff I read says that GPS and 911 and 24×7 tracking are and have been government mandates. I’m not qualified to verify it, but have read that some modern phones still transmit a location signal (for how long?) that can’t be disabled when the battery is out and supposedly there is no power. As to the 2G issue, my beloved digital/analog StarTac is still sold and used and legal in other parts of the world and if I were willing to leave the US and live in, oh, India, I could get mine repaired and use it. Carriers here may have forced 2G to be obsolete (see your friendly salesman for a new phone) but I haven’t read that that is happening yet in the rest of the world. There’s a web site that tracks this issue.

To the stake with the heretic!