Forced Presidential Alerts on your Librem 5


It uses cell broadcast, not SMS, although the message might enter the network as an SMS before being converted to cell broadcast.

The way this originally worked was that you would manually input a list of topic or channel numbers you were interested in receiving messages about. Phones had a menu option for receiving a topic index, which was itself a broadcast message that listed which other topics were available locally.

I think perhaps the idea in the beginning was that there would be services like local traffic alerts, stocks and shares, news headlines, etc, that people could choose to subscribe to, but it never really took off. (I don’t imagine there was any profit in it.) Your phone number is not used to receive these kinds of messages; it is more like tuning into a digital television channel than receiving an SMS message.

It seems that all they’ve done in more recent phones is hard-code some emergency alert topic numbers that the phone will always be “tuned to” by default, displaying the resulting messages in a distinctive manner.

I imagine that most phones no longer expose a manual topic subscription list, because it wasn’t very useful, and those that do expose a manual topic list probably perform a boolean union between the manual topic list and the special emergency topics that have been enabled in the settings, so that those topics can only be disabled through the settings, or cannot be disabled at all.

For the US Presidential alerts, I wonder if there is any difference between what the law requires for carrier-provided phones and what it requires for phones that the customer purchases separately and brings to the network.


Thanks for all of the replies here everyone.

Again, I see no differences in these Presidential Alerts and putting a chip on your TV that turns your TV from off to on, turns the volume up to an alarming level, and turns the channel to an Emergency Brodcast channel. So you’re asleep at 3:AM when your tv comes on and wakes you up this way. It’s your government calling damn it. And they want you to wake-up and pay attention… right now and not later. Opting-out is not an option. You are a subject and we demand your attention right now, not later, but now. So you have to pay attention to us right now. I don’t care what their fu…ing reason is or if the world is coming to an end. It’s my damn phone and my damn life and I want to disable that feature. In a free country, that is all that should matter. Who knows? I might even choose to opt-in if given a choice. But as long as that selection is greyed-out, I want it in the off position.

We’re talking about what happens in the privacy of our homes, in our vehicles, and on our very person, 24/7/365. As long as we’re not violating the law, the government has no moral right to pass laws that treat us this way. It’s not about whether or not anyone is notified in case of emergencies. It’s about whether or not you’re allowed to decide for yourself, how and your government has access to communicate with you and if or when your electronic devices that you own can be commandeered by the government for purposes that involve you but that you object to their use of. They disabled this switch because they didn’t want anyone to turn it off. That shouldn’t be their choice to make, no matter what is going-on in the world. This is also immensely different than putting out public air raid sirens using public funds and either public property or consent from property owners to place the sirens. In those respects, there should still be a respect for private property rights of the owners of the phones.

Our legislators go too far with these Presidential Alerts. The public good is also not served. There are not enough shelters to protect a significant number of people from a nuclear attack. If I am going to be incinerated alive in ten minutes, do I really want ten minutes to think about that? Would I want to live in a post-nuclear-war world if the Presidential Alerts could save my life? These choices should be made by individuals and not by the government. These Presidential Alerts are all about politics and power, and are not about the public good. Our legislators see themselves as caretakers of people who are not capable of making the right decisions. Then they do what is best for themselves. Laws like this prove that point.


:exploding_head:Calm down… and start breathing again… :wink:
I fully agree there should be an opt-out of such things.
But we are talking a broadcast message and as such it not really intruding on your privacy. Or do you noise insulate your house to not let the fire alarm sirens and church bells intrude your privacy as well?


Having a phone connected to a tower and the NSA existing is a much bigger threat. They know where you are down to less than 1 ms. Why not anarchy instead of pretending the government will ever respect you? They own you. An attempt to kill yourself while in the military is considered damaging US property. The government allows it’s officers to protect themselves from threats in a way it doesn’t allow civilians to. Try killing an officer to defend yourself from the officer (imagine a rape case). You basically have to let it happen and then report it, if you are even alive then. The state is a threat to your freedom.


What they do outside of your property is an issue that can be reasonably debated. What they cause to happen on your property, especially as they commandeer your privately-owned devices via remote control to do it, that is a clear violation of your rights. Maybe this is is a small example that could appear to some people to be meaningless. But there are much larger-scale issues involved. If someone twice your size cuts in the lunch line, maybe you don’t say anything. Eventually, the bully can do anything he wants to do. Wrong is wrong. The government needs to keep its hands out of our devices. The next thing you know, Purism will be under regulations and court orders that lock us out of the OS, deny us access to the source code, and could be under statutory requirements to put certain blobs in all hardware they sell. After all, it’s for own good or for the public good (not). The people can’t be trusted and the legislators know best (not). I am pretty sure that at some point, whatever is in those legally required blobs will not be for own good. If we wait that long to fight the battle, we will have lost. The battle needs to start with the apparently smaller issues. People need to be outraged by these forced Presidential Alerts or anything like them. We need to get rid of them now, before the legislature sees what Purism is doing and takes up the issue of blobs… for our own good, of course (not).


This would seem to be a misunderstanding of how the system works rather than a criticism of the system that is actually in place. An alert won’t power on your phone and raise the volume. You can even put it in airplane mode while the alert is being broadcast to miss it. Anyway, I’m sure someone will figure out a way to keep the alert from showing up on the Librem 5 even if the broadcast is received by the modem.

I agree with this sentiment, I just don’t see an emergency broadcast as an example of this. Putting fluoride in drinking water because people won’t brush their teeth or taking sugary/fried foods out of school lunches because some people are bad parents and feed their kids crap at home would be better examples.


If we could simply turn off the alert (sound) aspect of the notification, it might be an issue. Sometimes I just don’t want to hear from anyone’ especially someone I explicitly said in advance I don’t want to hear from. When notifications are off, I don’t want the government turning them back on because they decided to override my decision. No one else gets to do that.


For what it’s worth my Samsung phone currently stays silent when an emergency alert/test alert comes through provided I have my phone on silent or vibrates since I normally have it on vibrate. I don’t think keeping the sound where you left it will be an issue on the L5 (eventually, there may be some software bugs initially but I don’t think that’s really the focus of this topic)


So you say, but I see no evidence whatsoever that this is true.

Are you in the US? Do you have your Librem 5 yet?

I’m guessing that the answers are “yes” and “no”.

If that is correct, please get back to this topic once the second answer is “yes”.


It should be an opt-in. If it’s any good at all, people will opt in.


The fact that one might choose to connect to a tower does not imply consent for other infringements of freedom.

Yes! Why not?

Speak for yourself.

By definition. The state is force, which unethically-used is a threat to freedom.


yes but it’s also implied that if you know how that tower operates or how it’s been designed to operate for the state - IF you value your freedom more than making a call then you will find other means to get in touch with whoever it is you want to get in touch with. at least that’s how the state thinks about this mutual “exploitation” business … “i provide you with a way to circumvent time and space barriers so you feel like a superman and i get to keep the kryptonite … just to be sure” lol


in the context of military servitude lol :joy:


You don’t lie. I’ve served a lifetime with the military as a civilian and a contractor, but when I was in the recruiter’s office at 17, being “owned” was probably the thing that led me to leave without signing up.


that’s how you drop the mic …


“The fact that one might choose to connect to a tower does not imply consent for other infringements of freedom.”

I definitely agree with this statement. One might say “if they use our cellular system, they’ll have to play by our rules”. But then again’ the same rules could be applied to public roads. If you drive your car on public roads in that case, then the police would have a right to perform random searches on all cars who use public roadways, to assure that no one on public roads are violating the law.


How so? Cell networks are built and maintained by private companies, at least in the US, while roads are paid for by various levels of the government depending on where they are.


Telephone and cellular systems are regulated by common-carrier laws. This goes back to the days when waterways were first considered a public resource, and therefore needed to be regulated for the public good. If the FCC is going to license the use of publicly owned electromagnetic spectrum for use by a company, the licensees have to use their license to operate within the law, and that includes respecting your rights against unreasonable searches. Verizon and AT&T do not own the spectrum they use. They operate in it under a license issued to them by the FCC. That license can be removed, if necessary. This is why the carriers obey the statutory requirements to (for example) sell phones with the access to turn-off the Presidential Alerts, greyed-out. It’s the statute in this case that is unethical. But whether it’s the government or the company, the electromagnetic spectrum is a public good, just like the rivers, oceans, air, forests, etc… In the current political environment, it is also important to point out that these public goods are made by nature. Some of our friends on the left want us to believe that anything man-made that they want and can’t pay for is also a public good. There are also public goods that are man-made. Those are financed by our tax dollars. They still belong to the people. A free society assures that their elected public servants work for them, and not the other way around. If our public servants fail to represent our best interests, we toss them out of office. If they want my vote, they better keep their hands off of my electronic devices. As an interesting side note, cable companies use communications that rely on the use of city telephone polls and city right-of-way. The cities license the means of those communications once the satellite signals reach the cable tv head-end. But the DMCA (digital millennium copyright act) has some pretty stiff enforcement mechanisms in place if the government ever chooses to exercise them. When it comes to your electronic devices, there is great reason to fear. If you crack the wrong cipher because you disagree with how it is being used, you can still end up with a long prison term. It all starts with an innocent and harmless looking thing on your phone that you can’t be trusted not to turn off… for your own good, of course (not).


I do not have my Librem 5 yet and I expect to be in the Evergreen batch. I suppose it’s likely that the Librem 5 team will probably leave this Presidential Alert feature unlocked, despite the statute that requires otherwise. The actual statute is in a link from a post higher-up in this chain. This chain was not intended to have any affect on what Purism does or does not do. I am hoping that the core issues are addressed early-on, before someone from the government show-up, giving Purism the choice of either compromising the social purpose or shutting down all-together.


On the EM spectrum being a public good, that’s a convincing argument, and it’s one I’d never thought of. It follows from that, as you said earlier, that we should have the same constitutional protections in a cell network as we do on the road. I still think if you’re going to make the case that presidential alerts are unethical, then you have to argue too that emergency TV broadcasts and tornado sirens are unethical.