In 2006 Congress passed legislation under the Warning Alert and Response Network Act allowing the Federal government access to private cell phones to issue emergency warnings and alerts of major national interest. The effects of The Personalized Localized Alerting Network (PLAN) are expected to take place in New York and Washington DC by the end of this year and throughout the nation in the next few years. The emergency alert system will be used only for critical national messages from the president, information in life-threatening situations and Amber Alerts meant to widen the search for missing or abducted youngsters. All mobile service carriers will be participating in the program and no customer will be able to opt out of Presidential alerts. Even users who turn off the GPS locators on their phones will receive the alerts. Furthermore, PLAN technology will allow the messages to take precedence over regular phone calls or text messages, so in an emergency in which the system’s capacity is overloaded, the alerts will still get through. Messages will show up on the phone’s front screen, instead of the standard text message inbox, and arrive with a distinct ringtone and or vibration. I do not like the notion that the government can dictate how I am to receive information and override my personal settings on my property.
Proponents of PLAN argue that this new policy is a method for providing a crucial government service for its constituents. I fear this legislation will further impose big government into people’s lives. The ever expanding powers of the government are, in a word, worrisome. It starts with one thing that appears minute and evolves into a myriad of policies which violate every comfort endowed to us as American citizens. From the TSA body scanners to now this PLAN system, at what point do these powers become abusive to the citizenry? Does this legislation improve the effectiveness of our government or are we soon to live within the words of George Orwell’s 1984 where “Big Brother” facilitates every function of our daily lives?