Not all technological advancements are good. The ability for the government to harass you via the device you carry in your pocket is one of those extremely negative developments.
On Sunday night a bunch of blaring emergency alarms went off in church during prayer. This wasn't the first time it's happened—it was another test of the government's wireless emergency alert system. Or so I assumed. My phone didn't go off, so I have no idea what the message said, and I didn't bother to ask anyone after. I'm still alive, so it can't have been all that important.
Since the managerial class of our government discovered the demonic screech known as the "Wireless Emergency Alert" function could be used and abused for all manner of things over the past four years, I have looked for ways to opt-out. The alert app comes bundled into the Android OS system packages and can't be disabled or removed via the UI. In many places it's a legal requirement for carriers to ship their phones with these apps. There are a number of options in the app, including opting out of all but the highest level of alerts. However, these options are useless because the government always sends the alerts at the highest level, whether it's a test run, a COVID lockdown, a weather warning, or a notification of impending nuclear holocaust.
Based on the timing of a dozen alerts I received before turning them off, I deduced that if any real emergency were to happen I'd be happily dead an hour prior to the government notifying me. That's worse than useless. Just be thankful we haven't had a 2018 Hawaii false nuke incident yet.
It took a while, but I finally found a fix that sticks and has worked successfully over a bunch of modern Android devices in the past few months.
The solution is a technical one, but almost anyone can follow these simple steps to remove the Wireless Emergency Alerts package from your phone. You need to be comfortable running a few commands from a terminal. There are 3 basic components that have a number of granular steps each: enable developer mode on your phone, install Google's Android SDK Platform Tools on your computer, and run some adb shell commands.
- Enable developer mode on your phone.
- Open the settings app and find "Build number" via the search. Tap it 7 times. Confirm to enable.
- Use the search again to find "USB debugging" and enable it. (This option is part of the new developer options menu enabled by the previous step.)
- Plug your phone into the computer via a USB cable, we will return to it in step 3(d).
- On your computer, install "Android SDK Platform Tools" to get access to the"'adb" command on your PC or laptop:
- Download for the tools for your OS here: https://developer.android.com/tools/releases/platform-tools
- Once the download completes, open your downloads folder, right-click on the zip file, and select "Extract all".
- In the prompt, "browse" for a new location and select your "Documents" folder and confirm. This keeps the path nice and easy for later, but if you choose some other location then make a note of it.
- Run some shell commands via your computer.
- Find either the "Command Prompt" or "Windows Powershell", but right-click on the app and select "run as administrator". (Mac/Linux users: open a terminal.)
- To navigate to the tools folder, Run "cd \Users\NAME\Documents\platform-tools" replacing NAME with your Windows user name and hit enter. (Mac/Linux users: "cd /home/NAME/Documents/platform-tools".)
- Run "adb.exe devices" to start the ADB daemon and identify your phone. (Mac/Linux users: run "./adb devices".)
- On your phone, which you plugged in at step 1(c), you will see an authorisation prompt to allow the computer to connect to your phone.
- Once you've accepted the authorisation on your phone, return to your computer terminal and run "adb.exe shell". (Mac and Linux: "./adb shell".) You should see the shell's location indicator change to your phone name.
- Inside the shell run these two commands. The first is for older Android systems and the second for newer. In my experience some phones even have both. One will probably fail, but that's fine. You will want to see at least one "success" response:
- pm uninstall -k --user 0 com.android.cellbroadcastreceiver
- pm uninstall -k --user 0 com.google.android.cellbroadcastreceiver
What this command does: "pm" is the package manager, "uninstall" is the operation to run, "-k" keeps any settings for the package in case you reinstall it later, "--user 0" is the phone's default user (you), and the name that follows is the carrier package name that receives annoying and useless Wireless Emergency Alerts from your government. If you'd like to read more technical information, the instructions above were adapted from StackOverflow.
You're all done. Type "exit" to leave the shell, close the terminal, unplug your phone, and optionally turn developer debugging back off.
See if you can still find "wireless emergency alerts" on your phone. It should no longer show up in the menu or anywhere else.
If you run into any issues, send me a message or talk to a family member who knows how to use a computer.
Once the Wireless Emergency Alerts are gone from your phone, your level of life satisfaction will improve dramatically. You're welcome.