Forced Presidential Alerts on your Librem 5


It’s only an ethical to everyone if they agree with your assumptions about government. Dude you’re injecting politics where they don’t belong. You could have just asked if you could turn off alerts.


WARN: Warning, Alert and Response Network (Act)

Seems like it’s not mandatory. Hard to tell, full of lawyer double speak. Section 3, (d), (2).


If I recall correctly, these alerts are usally send out over a specific protocol vastly different to SMS (Not sure as I’m in the UK we have no such system).

The protocol is enabled by default in most modern smart phones but can be disabled as well.

If this is the case and it is already being done I see no reason Purism can’t do it.


Cell broadcast timeline:

EENA PUBLIC WARNING SYSTEMS Update - Version: 3.0 - Published 30 Sep 2019


Yes, there most certainly is the prospect for this. In fact, it was a large factor in the design of the L5. Pretty much every phone you get these days has the modem integrated on the same silicon as the CPU and they communicate via a shared memory interface. Very fast, very low power… but potentially very destructive. There is no real information about which parts of the system such a modem can access on its own - whether the memory controller only allows access between the two components in a narrow window, or whether the modem can just see, read and write to everything.

It used to be the case (2013 or thereabouts, Samsung’s last iteration of this was the Galaxy S4) that modems were a whole separate chip from the CPU, soldered on to the board. Some of them would also have had a shared memory device to communicate, others would have used something called HSIC (basically hard-wired USB). Better, but not perfect - because the modem also had direct access to the sound chip (greatly simplifies the software for the OS when you want to make phonecalls, very bad if someone takes over the modem and uses it to eavesdrop) and to the GPS chip (useful if you dial 112 with both legs broken and want them to know where to find you, not useful if someone’s trying to hunt you down and getting the modem to send its position ever so often).

The Librem 5 has its modem as a completely separate, removable package (one of the M.2 cards) and is connected via USB only. It doesn’t have access to any other part of the system except by asking (this includes sound - the OS needs to explicitly route audio over the USB connection). This means that to gain some control over the system, there will need to be a vulnerability in the kernel drivers for the modem which can be remotely exploited, or perhaps in the SMS receiving software. Both of these things are something that we have control over and can fix.


Actually, I started hating the Presidential alerts when Obama was President. I don’t mind them so much now that Trump is President. But that is beside the point. The point is that the Government has decided to use my hardware in a way that I do not consent to and on top of that, they’ve made a concious choice to force the matter against my will. This isn’t like a safety issue on a given model of automobile or a Surgeon General’s warning about smoking. It’s more of a case of the government feeling entitled to use my property against my will because they can. Whether or not it’s for my own good isn’t the issue since it’s not their job to decide for me against my will, what is good for me. By what authority should they be able to do this?


Legally, this is not that different from broadcast TV being required to display emergency alerts, which the US has had for a long time. The difference is that instead of a TV, it is a cell phone. I know that you carry one in your pocket, and the other sits at home, but they are both wireless receivers that are capable of saving lives by keeping the public informed. The FCC manages the wireless spectrum and can impose conditions on the usage of that spectrum, such FM radio stations announcing their ID every so often, and requiring that they carry emergency alerts. Cell phones use licensed spectrum, so they must comply with the regulations of the spectrum that they use. Sometimes, these regulations impose restrictions on the user’s behavior. For example, in CB radio, it is illegal for you to talk in code words that a reasonable person might not know.

It is only called “presidential alerts” because “executive branch alerts” does not have the same ring to it. The executive branch in the US is tasked with handling emergencies because congress is too slow to. In practice, this is no different than civil alerts in other countries. The US just names it after the public office in charge of approving it.


To be sure. However, as I see it, FLOSS isn’t FLOSS if it isn’t about rights and liberty. Therefore, rights are always on topic.


“Governments don’t have rights only individuals do”

This isn’t just talking about rights, you’re also brining in the theory of Indivualism and in effect radical libertarianism.

I fully support FLOSS but I’m no longer either of those things, therefore it’s not always on topic. You’re over politicising something for no real reason, you just come off as angry (I’m not saying you are but your message read this way) and it simply creates devision.

We can talk about digital rights and related matters of course, I just think this isn’t the place to discuss wider politics.


I can’t speak for the vast majority, but for myself, I was against it when it was instituted during the Obama regime, and I’m still against it. It doesn’t matter who the president is, initiation of force is wrong.


Yep, exertion of power in a private space is violation of privacy and private property. If state wants to make public alert system it has plenty of space and possibilities to do that. In all (normal) countries it is done via loud-speaker and radio/tv broadcast based notification system. which is not prone to any mistakes/abuse/malfunction of course, but it does respect your privacy and does not abuse your property.


I’m certainly an individualist, even if I’m not really sure what a radical libertarian is. But for me, it’s philosophy, not politics, and digital rights is just a re-branding of speech and property rights. In my mind, I just can’t grok FLOSS without liberty – if I pull that thread, the whole thing unravels.

I intended no anger or intolerance in my post, sincerely. Maybe it’s the way my avatar is clinching that cigar, which is barely visible after the forum cropped it. :confused:


Dude it wasn’t on topic or necessary in this post. You’re just shoehorning your ideology as always relevant here. But not everyone here is a libertarian. Consider it a courtesy to not be overtly political in a tech forum. Can we go down the rabbit hole of “everything is political”? Yeah, but why on a tech forum?


I’d like to remind everyone in here, if you have a baseband your location is known while it is connected to cell towers, they don’t need an alert system to track you just saying. They will just demand the data via the FISA court in the USA.


That’s correct, so any emergency/rescue service interested in saving your life can still get your last (or current) position.
But technically the OP question was answeered already so this is just now near-technical ethical/political discussion around it.
To add to that - current settings mockup does not have any specific filters for notification types.


That’s no issues, just seemed very off topic.

As I said I wasn’t sure if you intended the anger and yes your Avatar makes it seem alot worse. Maybe consider changing it? :joy::joy::joy::joy::joy:


Was that sarcastic? Loudspeakers fail all the time:

Presidential alerts are a broadcast based notification system. Just because it’s delivered via cell service rather than your chosen medium doesn’t make it different.

"Reply" not always working properly

Broadcast based transmission is radio and tv, phone is unicast. newspaper is broadcast, mail is unicast. Loudspeaker announcement is broadcast. Policeman taping you on the shoulder is a unicast.


In what way is sending an alert to all devices in receiving range of cell towers in a geographical area not a broadcast?

From the FCC’s website:


In the same as unsolicited bulk email notification is spam.