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People are talking: cell-phone amber alert

I awoke this morning to a steady stream of Facebook postings and Tweets discussing the Amber alerts received by cell phone users in the middle of the night — apparently the first time such an alert was issued through cell phones, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Reaction was decidedly mixed. Many people seem fine with this use of technology and point to the seriousness of the situation, which involved two missing children in San Diego. Others, however, wonder if such an intrusive method — the government awakening citizens in the middle of the night in such a loud manner — would best be reserved for messages involving a real and imminent danger to a large part of the population, such as a weather crisis or health emergency.

I understand the importance of the Amber Alert information, but I find myself more in the second camp mentioned above.  One commenter at laist.com writes:

Love the idea, hate the execution.   A klaxon screaming from every cell phone in the house for a message that then disappears leaving no trace is poor execution.  Worse, it can lead to alarm fatigue whereby,  if enuff of these get sent out, people begin to tune  them out or opt out of the system altogether.

I agree. In a state of 38 million residents, in which life-and-death situations unfold every day, such an extreme method of notifying the population should be done on a judicious basis.

It’s possible to opt out of the notifications, by the way.