The UK Government has announced a test, on St Georges Day (23rd April), of their Emergency Alert system which will be broadcast across all 4G and 5G smart phones across the UK simultaneously. This may be an emotive subject for many and already we have received several different examples of misleading or unverified ‘facts’ about this system and about the timing of it.

We thought it was important to prepare a clear breakdown of the facts as we know them now and will update if this changes in anyway.

During an alert our phones will either make a loud siren like noise for several seconds, even if our volume is turned down, it may vibrate or even read out the alert if the phone is set as such.

It is being transmitted to all phones that are running on 4G and 5G within a designated area, so isn’t targeting individual phone numbers, no information is being shared and does not operate over WIFI. It is something that has been in planning for over a decade and does exist in many other countries.

On face value, there are potential benefits for such a system to exist, however this will only work if we are aware of what t is when it happens and that it is then not corrupted by scammers and fraudsters.

This is likely to cause alarm for many people without this fair warning who may think something is wrong with their phone, their number has been shared with the authorities or even cause a panic.

There also is risk of re-traumatization and safeguarding concerns have been raised for victims of domestic violence or modern day slavery who may have a secondary phone for safety purposes. If the alert goes off it could identify it’s existence to the abuser.

The biggest immediate concern  we have for the people we work with is that the wording around the alerts could be used by scammers who replicate this via text or WhatsApp and encourage people to click on a link, call back a fraudulent number and pass over personal details.

With this in mind we actually welcome the test. It could be a good way for groups to receive and learn from the genuine alert and then be watchful for similar messages in the future and be better able to fact check.

 


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