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posted by janrinok on Tuesday March 11 2014, @10:03AM   Printer-friendly
from the be-alert,-the-country-needs-more-lerts dept.

frojack writes:

"Amber alerts on our smartphones are starting to become all too frequent, and like most things, they are burdened with a certain degree of Feature Creep. Not just for abducted children anymore, the Alert system in US carrier sold phones can carry Presidential Alerts, Imminent Threat Alerts (weather or forest fires mostly) and the original AMBER alert for missing children.

Its not clear the President is ever going to have a single message for the entire population, where that message will make any difference to the average citizen. But then, this category is seldom abused. Weather broadcasts are invariably too late, historically too widely distributed, and often simply redundant. And Amber Alerts are, in the majority of cases, custody disputes, where the child is never in any real danger.

Amber Alerts are quickly becoming viewed as security theater, and the most abused aspect of the entire system. This has increasing numbers of people opting out of the alerts on their phones as a result.

The Amber system is the "third rail" of child safety discussions, and few agencies are willing to address its failings. Do we need additional shades of Amber, or the ability to filter custody disputes from the system?"

 
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  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Sir Garlon on Tuesday March 11 2014, @11:15AM

    by Sir Garlon (1264) on Tuesday March 11 2014, @11:15AM (#14579)

    I have mixed feelings about Amber Alerts. On one hand, my knee-jerk reaction when someone says "think of the children" is annoyance and defiance: think of shutting up and keeping the government off my back! On the other hand, I have enough knowledge of history to know that the professional police force we have and take for granted today is a relative novelty that was implemented in the mid-nineteenth century (too lazy to look up a reference). Before that, law enforcement relied on citizens to be alert and to assist the laughably few constables, marshals, etc. when an emergency occurred. So under certain circumstances I think it makes sense to remember that the police can and should call for help from regular people. To expect the police to do all the work all the time is too sheep-like for my comfort.

    Like all authority, this can be abused. Specifically, turning citizens into informants risks injecting all kinds of biases into the investigation. As Bruce Schneier said, ask amateurs to do security work and you should expect amateurish results. But it worked for finding the Boston marathon bombers. So, like I said, mixed feelings.

    --
    [Sir Garlon] is the marvellest knight that is now living, for he destroyeth many good knights, for he goeth invisible.
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  • (Score: 1) by GeminiDomino on Tuesday March 11 2014, @11:52AM

    by GeminiDomino (661) on Tuesday March 11 2014, @11:52AM (#14585)

    Before that, law enforcement relied on citizens to be alert and to assist the laughably few constables, marshals, etc. when an emergency occurred. So under certain circumstances I think it makes sense to remember that the police can and should call for help from regular people. To expect the police to do all the work all the time is too sheep-like for my comfort.

    Screw it. They decided the citizens couldn't have any authority, so they can take the responsibility and shove it.

    --
    "We've been attacked by the intelligent, educated segment of our culture"
    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 11 2014, @03:13PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 11 2014, @03:13PM (#14690)

      Before that, law enforcement relied on citizens to be alert and to assist the laughably few constables, marshals, etc. when an emergency occurred. So under certain circumstances I think it makes sense to remember that the police can and should call for help from regular people. To expect the police to do all the work all the time is too sheep-like for my comfort.

      Screw it. They decided the citizens couldn't have any authority, so they can take the responsibility and shove it.

      I think the GP's point is that citizens should have more authority. By the police and citizens working together, the hope would be that we would get police which don't consider every unknown citizen they encounter to be their enemy and that citizens in turn don't have to consider every unknown member of the police to be their enemy.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by VLM on Tuesday March 11 2014, @12:17PM

    by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday March 11 2014, @12:17PM (#14593)

    "But it worked for finding the Boston marathon bombers"

    You mean the reddit guys? That didn't turn out so well.

    • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 11 2014, @03:06PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 11 2014, @03:06PM (#14682)

      Indeed. Garlon seems to be very confused about what happened in Boston.

      Even the guy who "found" the kid in his boat was not actively looking for him. He just saw that something was weird with the cover on his boat. That's luck, not design or even intention.

      • (Score: 2) by Sir Garlon on Tuesday March 11 2014, @05:33PM

        by Sir Garlon (1264) on Tuesday March 11 2014, @05:33PM (#14717)

        I think I have a different interpretation of events than you do, which is not the same as being confused. Notice how fast the suspect was caught after the lockdown was lifted. You call it luck. I say alerting the whole population of the metro area created approximately 2 million chances to get lucky. Both can be true.

        --
        [Sir Garlon] is the marvellest knight that is now living, for he destroyeth many good knights, for he goeth invisible.
    • (Score: 2) by Sir Garlon on Tuesday March 11 2014, @05:20PM

      by Sir Garlon (1264) on Tuesday March 11 2014, @05:20PM (#14713)

      In what way?

      --
      [Sir Garlon] is the marvellest knight that is now living, for he destroyeth many good knights, for he goeth invisible.
  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by lentilla on Wednesday March 12 2014, @12:56AM

    by lentilla (1770) on Wednesday March 12 2014, @12:56AM (#14963)

    the police can and should call for help from regular people

    I believe that we each have an obligation to look out for our fellows. A police force is simply an extension and formalisation of this responsibility. It behoves us all; citizens and public servants alike; to recall we are not serfs and masters but rather equals with a common goal.

    Police need to understand that they are being employed to do the boring parts - the standing in the rain or the filling-in of countless reports. They need to remember their authority to act is derived solely from the citizenry and their purpose is to ensure society runs peacefully.

    I prefer to see it not so much "police can and should call for help from regular people" as much as "regular people should be able to ask for help from their neighbours". A paid police force is no more than the continuation of this basic responsibility.