Ahead of the government testing out an emergency alert on every phone connected to 4G or 5G in the UK this weekend at 3pm on Sunday 23 April,we have seen bad information about the emergency alert shared thousands of times online.
Misinformation about this alert may lead to unnecessary alarm, and in some instances, may even cause people to opt out of future alerts (as many online have claimed they already have) based on incorrect information.
- The emergency alert will not access your personal data. When an alert is triggered, all cell towers in the area concerned will broadcast the alert to connected devices. The government doesn’t need to know your location or phone number to do this. The Cabinet Office confirmed to Full Fact that no personal data is collected by the alert.
- The alert will not be a text message you need to reply to, but will be a notification that will need to be acknowledged before you can keep using your phone as normal. It will include a website link containing further information.
- Emergency Alerts won’t match personal data with information collected during the pandemic. Claims on social media suggesting that the emergency alert system will allow personal data to be collected, and that this will be matched with data collected when people signed into venues during the Covid-19 pandemic, are not true.The government website describes the alert as “one-way” and confirms that the alert does not require the government to know any individual phone numbers. Since no data is collected by the Emergency Alert system, it isn’t possible for it to be matched with personal data collected during the pandemic.
- The emergency alert test will not ‘breach GDPR’. When an alert is triggered, mobile phone masts broadcast it to every compatible phone and tablet within range. The government won’t be using your personal data, like your mobile phone number, to do this.
- The alert is not an “activation signal” to activate the “pathogen in the shot”. We’ve seen claims on social media that the emergency alert test is an “activation signal” to activate the “pathogen in the shot”. This appears to be a reference to the Covid-19 vaccines. There’s no way a signal from a cell tower could “activate” a pathogen or vaccine materials including the Covid-19 vaccine.Dr Al Edwards, associate professor in biomedical technology at the University of Reading, told Full Fact: “There is no mechanism known to physics or biology that could connect radio signals set by mobile phone data systems, to the biological or chemical materials found in vaccines.”