Forced Presidential Alerts on your Librem 5


I leave my phone turned on all of the time. The settings I select, control how my phone communicates with me. When I don’t want my phone to be capable of communicating anything to me, except that I still want to be able to accept phone calls, I turn off notifications, all notifications that is, except for the Presidential Alerts. I can’t turn those off. I can’t turn the Presidential Alerts off because my government decided that they know more about what is good for me than I myself do. If the Presidential Alerts went in to a queue and I got them only after I later turned my notifications back on, that would be okay, as long as they let me also control the notification volume and type of tone (like all other notifications). When I am vulnerable to outside influences (however slight) has to be my own choice. And I always need to control that timing. The television emergency brodcast system was developed at a time when intelligent control of electronic devices was not practical. At least you get to decide when to turn your attention to the tv set. The government never did anything to circumvent my decisions in that case. Everyone did their best with the available technology at the time. The violation of my rights occurred when my government made a conscious choice to circumvent my decision about how I can use my personal property in a peaceful way when there were other alternatives easily available. It has nothing to do with how the tv emergency brodcast may resemble (or not) what my cell phone is doing. It’s about that they have made a conscious choice to circumvent my rights. When I want notifications turned off damn-it, that means off, end of story. If there were a technical feasibility issue, I might say something like “yeah, the inconvenience to me is worth it for the public good”. But when the setting is greyed-out and we all know that technical feasibility is not the issue, we know that our personal property rights are being unreasonably violated. Not only do they break through my personal firewalls by circumventing my choices, they come-up with loud volume and a tone that I don’t recognize. In a time of peace and with no public buy-in to any kind of plan (no plan is feasible any way), this treatment is inexcusable. It’s only self-promotion of politicians who want to remind us that they are in-charge. Tell me honestly, let’s say that a nuclear war has actually started. 300 million phones activate with these fu…king Presidential Alerts. What good would that do anyway? After .01% of the population are safely in fallout shelters, what will the other 99.99% of us do? More realistically, let’s say the White House is under a physical attack. If my Presidential Alerts are turned off, how will that affect anything significantly? Maybe I’ll be the last one to turn the tv on to see what is going on. How would that change anything? I can’t see any possible thing that I could do as a result of receiving a presidential alert, that could possibly help either myself or anyone else. It’s all politics. And for those who believe otherwise, they could opt-in.


I must have missed that link before. I hope they leave it unlocked, but if they don’t because of pressure from the The State, I won’t be too worried. PureOS is FLOSS, so we, The People, will just fix it!


i mean realistically they are OUR rights (of the people that are conscious about them) but the rest ? last time i checked democracy has a tipping point of at least 51% majority no ? if it’s only 49% would it pass ? re-elections lol …


Assuming we are talking about HR 5785 (linked by you in the first post), my interpretation is

  1. No carrier is obliged even to participate.

  2. If a carrier chooses not to participate then it has an obligation to notify its customers of that fact clearly (although the exact details of how that works are not clear to me).

So first up if you have a problem with this statute then you in reality have a problem with your carrier for choosing to participate.

However let’s say that all carriers that are available in your area have chosen to participate.

Even then you may be misinterpreting the statute regarding “blocking”.

What it says is:

Any licensee electing to participate in the transmission of National Alert System alerts may offer subscribers the capability of preventing the subscriber’s device from receiving alerts broadcast by the system other than an alert issued by the President.

That language is not perfectly clear (because it does not explicitly or actually say that Presidential alerts may not be blocked - read it carefully - and for interpretation by intent of the lawmakers you would have to find relevant associated documents) but …

That imposes a restriction on the carrier. If you don’t obtain your “device” from a carrier then there does not appear to be any restriction imposed on the seller of the device.

Furthermore, configuration by the carrier could in theory directly control receiving alerts (which is what the text says and what the carrier, as transmitter, somewhat controls) but that in no way controls displaying alerts to the user of the device.

I accepted above that because the Librem 5 runs a blob in the modem, the Librem 5 will probably receive all types of alert, whether you want to or not (unless your carrier prevents you from receiving them). That doesn’t mean that those alerts will be displayed or in any meaningful way affect the operation of the Librem 5 excluding the modem.

However as numerous posts have pointed out, with an open source device, a decision to display Presidential alerts remains yours no matter what the seller does.


Civilian Canadian Commissionaire here: Tee hee, I see I’m not the only one here because of work. Let’s make that better way :slight_smile:


IMO, relevant here is explained in the post from @patch. And we know that: “the conventional commercial cellular network architecture is based on an infrastructure of stationary base transceiver stations (BTSs) connected to the wired core network.”* Thus, within mentioned post above is link to Cell_Broadcast Wikipedia definition and easy to read: “A CBC sends CB messages, a list of cells where messages are to be broadcast, and the requested repetition rate and number of times they shall be broadcast to the BSC/RNC/MME/AMF. The BSC’s/RNC’s/MME/AMF responsibility is to deliver the CB messages to the base station (BTSs), NodeBs, ENodeBs and gNodeBs which handle the requested cells.” Here is another, simpler explanation (from someone that knows what it is about): “Normally, all user plane data in GSM/GPRS networks are sent in point-to-point channels from the network to the user. Those are called “dedicated” radio channels which exist between the network and one given phone/subscriber at a time.
Cell Broadcast is an exception to that rule. It permits user data (so-called SMS-CB data) to be broadcast by the network in a way that can be received by all phones in the coverage area of the given BTS simultaneously.”

As well, within context of responsibility, I’m adding here: ETSI TS 123 041 V15.2.0 (2018-06) document as it describes the Cell Broadcast short message service (CBS) for GSM and UMTS. @kieran, in another words, I would assume every carrier is obliged to participate, without relating to (thinking about) licensed ones. Just small extract from this ETSI document: "The warning type value field indicates the following 5 warning types as its values; earthquake, tsunami, earthquake and tsunami, test, and other. Also, other warning types can be defined in the future if it is required."
*Xu Chen, Dongning Guo: “Wireless Public Safety Networks, Volume Two: A Systematic Approach”


It looks like one good example (eMBMS) of your statement is presented here:


Don’t know why over and over again you all bring up technical implementation details here. The phone is personal commuicator/assistance device. Not broadcast receiver.
There are phones with FM radio - those are capable to receive FM radio broadcasts. Will you be happy if this unblockable alert will turn on the radio on your phone at full volume? And a camera - to make sure you are watching this, and not looking for the way to kill the sound.


Maybe I just try to understand something and you are saying there is nothing to look at. Sorry, I even don’t know if CB messages are related to the 2AON8-BM818 FCC modem (receiver) certification.


Understanding the technology is helpful so that we can modify the technology if desired. Attempting to understand how something is actually being implemented is not a bad thing.

Phones are capable of many things. All phones with FM radio receivers are FM radio broadcast receivers. Also if you took the time to understand the underlying technology you would know that the presidential alerts are a broadcast that the phones receive (implying they are in fact broadcast receivers).

Also, all networked computers receive broadcast messages, this is important for them to find what devices are nearby so that they can Identify each other and negotiate communication methods. With part of a phones role being that of a computer this is relevant in pointing out that they are in fact broadcast receivers.

Most computer wireless equipment would qualify as a wireless transceiver and will in fact receive radio broadcasts on whatever frequency(s) it’s capable of receiving.

I’ve not seen anyone suggest or imply they want this, and I have seen multiple people point out not all phones do this and how even if Purism is compelled to do this (unlikely); we as a community will be able to see the code, modify the code, and use our own modified code to disable this.

If your point is that your phone is not a device dedicated to receiving broadcast messages… Well neither are most TV’s (they have multiple inputs that can be used for many things), most modern car radios (really they’re computers anymore that do all sorts of things), even a traditional boom box will play 8-trac/cassettes/CD’s… Point is there aren’t many devices dedicated to that singular purpose and haven’t been for a long time.

If your worry is about potential future legislation… Well it would help to understand the existing legislation and how it’s being implemented so that you can speak intelligently to people about the current legislation and how it’s currently being used.

I see no issue with what @Quarnero has posted and found some of it useful in my own effort to better understand.

I just scrolled back through this, and they only posted 3 times before your post. I don’t know how 3 out of 87 counts as “over and over again” but maybe you’re combining a few people in this thread into one…


Thanks, that was valuable addition. And by this fact all PCs are also broadcast receivers. So why do you care if you would get some popup on your desk/lap PC that someone wants to bring your attention but you don’t about the same fact on your pocket pc (nowadays called phone)?


Getting away from Google , data miner’s and such I understand , but this issue? Who cares? Delete it like spam and move on.


Yes, they are. Computers can be setup to display broadcasts exactly as you describe. By default most do not display the underlying broadcasts as they’re not important to the user.

I don’t think the issue raised here is about the broadcasts existing, or even being enabled by default; rather the issue has been, can we disable them?

Some will argue Purism should have them off by default to respect privacy and require an opt-in, others will say Purism should have them on by default for safety. Regardless of the default both sides will mostly agree that the choice is what’s important. (Though there will likely be some set of people who think “you should protect me from myself” which is probably why some manufacturers choose to force the setting and not make it an option)

If there were any emergency alert system for PC’s that was on by default but could be turned off, and apple (as an example) chose to not allow you to turn them off; the alert system and alerts themselves wouldn’t be a problem for me. Apple taking away the option would be the complaint from most of us and is why there is a desire in this community for FLOSS.


The bottom line is that the technology (as ruff says) is not important. If I say that I want to turn off notifications and have exclusive control over my own volume and ringtone, not government nor anyone else should have the right to say “except for me, you can’t turn me off and I even get to turn-up the volume when I break in”. The least important part of this discussion is about how they get around to doing it - the technology - or how they justify doing it - similarity to other technology. No means no. They know they are circumventing my rights when they prevent me from opting out when allowing me to opt-out would be free and easy to implement (from a technical perspective) if they wanted to respect my rights. That is all that matters.


This issue goes much deeper than to just the presidential alerts. Whether in a pc, a pocket pc, or any other kind of computer, the computer is a prosthetic for the purpose of enhancing our thoughts and our personal brain capacity. It’s personal. It’s a part of us. We don’t want anyone else polluting our thoughts simply because they have the technical means to do so. We need to have the exclusive ability to control our own device of this type because it is personal. That is why Purism’s social purpose is so important. To allow the government to have unfettered access to this personal realm would be a bad choice.


FCC just improved WEAs, as this enhanced geo-targeting requirement toward MNOs went into effect on November 30, 2019. If not otherwise proofed considering this as spam (if precise geo-targeting of CB messages is not appropriate here) might help (staying happy is what counts anyway). For myself, if I start to speculate that someone here wants to sell me an E-Paper display instead if IPS or that software developers cannot control CB messages than I might be disappointed because I believed (and still do) that Librem 5 could be better personal pocket device. As well, if Evergreen would not be capable to instantly deliver/receive CB messages why to consider it as a smartphone device at all. And, at least one of two of my links are pointing out to the people that are, by their subject knowledge level, already somewhat involved within the Librem 5 project, but if it is obsolete to consider them as friends because they don’t work for Purism then I’m spamming here again. Also, I find this subject, brought up here from @StevenR great and have respect to his initiative to insist on having control/choice (more than just clear visibility) over WEAs. @OpojOJirYAlG, thanks for your tolerance (as hopefully I’d not republish something unnecessary, awareness inappropriate and not related to open source)! So, as not an expert, my question would be: Can I by turning off GNSS hardware kill switch disable CB messages by default or can I still leave GNSS kill switch on and control which kind (emergency level) of CB messages I want to receive by adjusting particular software setup? Do I expect something from Purism that is not achievable with PureOS? No, yet this is how I see the situation that is surrounding us (with good intentions, to precisely and timely engage, from active professionals that are doing their best when people’s lives are in danger).


move on until there’s nowhere else to move to … a scary thought …


If the government wants to get into your Librem 5 , they will , legally or illegally. The kill switches are excellent , but if you want to use the phone don’t you have to turn them on ? And if they get in then maybe they will be able to install something that can turn on the kill switches?
This country is what is called a friendly police state. As long as you play by their rules you don’t go to prison.
We are already at nowhere. Happy Sunday


you mean turn HARDWARE kill-switches from physical OFF to ON through SOFTWARE ? what trickery is this ? the devils magic no doubt lol … sarcasm off - it’s IMPOSSIBLE !


Delete it like spam and move on…? after it has turned your volume up all the way, used a ringtone that you don’t recognize, and intentionally bypassed your Notifications-off setting. Gees, did you give your lunch money to the school bully every day too? I guess lunch is no big deal, something you can do without anyway. Delete and just move-on? I don’t think so. Find out who voted for this bill and vote them out of office… that’s more like it. When the situation changes to something reasonable, then you move-on. Until then, we may have to tolerate it. But we don"t want to pretend it didn’t happen.