How Does The Government Have Our Phone Numbers?

Posted at 1:49 PM, Oct 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-03 15:49:11-04

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    MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO-TV) — Wednesday afternoon you likely received a text alert from President Donald Trump on your cellphone. It is the federal government’s first coast-to-coast test of its wireless alert system. So, how does the government have our phone numbers? Good question.

The text-like message from the president should clearly say, “This is a test.”

Joe Kelly, who runs Minnesota’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management division, says this technology has already been in play for a few years for local Amber Alerts and weather alerts.

“You can imagine just the complexity of this technologically on a national level,” Kelly tells WCCO-TV’s Heather Brown. “Its purpose is to get your attention and direct you towards sources of official information so you can keep yourself and your family safe.”

You don’t have to do anything after getting the message, but don’t bother replying “STOP.” As part of the law, you can block Amber or weather alerts on your phone, but not presidential ones.

Back to the big question: How do they have our numbers in the first place?

“That’s a great question, and the short answer is they don’t,” Kelly said. “What they’re going to do is broadcast this through every single cell tower in the United States, and if your phone is out there, it will catch it.”

The government partners with almost every wireless carrier in the country.

“There’s no autodials, robot callers behind this thing,” Kelly said. “It’s just a system-wide broadcast. By the same token, they won’t be able to tell if you’re phone receives it or not.”

Kelly says the system cannot track your location.

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Steve Fink