The Federal Government will soon be using specially implanted chips in cellular phones to track the movements of U.S. citizens, as part of a new national emergency-alert system. Citizens with properly equipped phones will be automatically enrolled in the service, and the chips will be automatically added to new phones from participating service providers.
On May 10, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in conjunction with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), announced it will be implementing the Personal Localized Alerting Network (PLAN) in Washington and New York by the end of the year, with hopes to expand the system nationally by April 2012. PLAN, already supported by Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint, will send text messages to citizens, notifying them in the case of safety threats in their area.
The system is “geographically targeted.” According to FEMA, “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.”
According to CBSNewYork.com, “Presidential and local emergency messages as well as Amber Alerts would appear on cell phones equipped with special chips and software.” Consumers can choose to opt out of some of the messages, but there is no way to opt out of messages from the president.
According to a press release on FEMA’s website, the system works in three steps: “ Authorized national, state or local government officials send alerts regarding public safety emergencies, such as a tornado or a terrorist threat, 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.”