According to The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Personal Localized Alerting Network (PLAN) is a new system that allows users who own an enabled mobile device to receive geographically-targeted, text-like messages alerting them of imminent threats to safety in their area. The alerts, currently being rolled out in New York City and Washington D.C. and expected to be in place in those cities by the end of 2011, would be done through a special chip to be installed on new handheld devices. It will use GPS technology and will send some of the alerts based on the location of the phone user. The alert system is expected to be instituted in rest of the U.S. by April 2012. Certain high-end cell phones are PLAN-enabled, but starting next year, all cellphones will be required to have the chip that receives alerts.

The Warning, Alert and Response Network (WARN) Act requires participating wireless carriers to activate PLAN technology by a deadline determined by the FCC, which is April 2012. Participants that will offer PLAN ahead of schedule include AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon.

How Does PLAN Work?
• Authorized national, state or local government officials send alerts to PLAN.
• PLAN authenticates the alert, verifies that the sender is authorized, and sends it to participating wireless carriers.
• Participating wireless carriers push the alerts from cell towers to mobile phones in the affected area. The alerts appear like text messages on mobile devices.

These “text-like messages” are geographically targeted. For example, a customer living in downtown New York would not receive a threat alert if they happen to be in Chicago when the alert is sent. Similarly, someone visiting downtown New York from Chicago on that same day would receive the alert. This requires a PLAN enabled mobile device and participation by the wireless provider in PLAN.

Users are automatically enrolled, as PLAN allows government officials to send “text-like messages” to all subscribers with PLAN-enabled devices if their wireless carrier participates in the program. Users do not sign up for this service. Users do not pay to receive “text-like messages” from PLAN which will be accompanied by a unique attention signal and vibration, which is particularly helpful to people with hearing or vision-related disabilities.

According to FEMA, users will receive three types of alerts from PLAN: (1) alerts issued by the president; (2) alerts involving imminent threats to safety of life; and (3) Amber Alerts. Participating carriers may allow subscribers to block alerts involving imminent threats to safety of life and/or Amber Alerts, but not presidential alerts. Presidential alerts are required of cellphone users and cannot be turned off.

MacDailyNews Take: We get “text-like messages” all day long; no “special chip” required. What else, if anything, does this “special chip” do? Is it just us or did the slope just get slipperier?

Yeah, yeah, we know: This is for our protection. It’s only for public safety. The government chip is “special.” Take off the tinfoil hats. This is a “Good Thing™. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

We have to wonder, though. What’s next? Maybe we’d all be “safer” if the government could use their federally-mandated “special chip” to turn on your cellphone cameras in “an emergency” in order to get a look at what’s going on around you? And your phones’ microphones, so the government can hear, too? How else could government-mandated special chips be used to make us “safer?”

Has anyone read Nineteen Eighty-Four recently?

You know what? The world is a dangerous place and you can’t protect everyone from everything. We’d rather retain what freedoms we have left and take our chances than to be forced to carry special government-mandated chips and receive presidential “text-like messages” that we can’t turn off, if we simply want to carry our cellphones.

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. – Benjamin Franklin

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