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Some Call For Reforms To Blaring Smartphone AMBER Alerts

Alert From Lancaster, PA Jolted NJ Residents Awake At 6:45 A.M.
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Generic AMBER Alert (file/credit: Screenshot)

Generic AMBER Alert (file/credit: Screenshot)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - A blaring AMBER Alert alarm on smartphones woke up people early Friday morning from New Jersey to Pennsylvania.

The alert was issued around 6:45 a.m. after two children were abducted Thursday night more than 100 miles away in Lancaster, Penn.

As CBS 2’s Maggie Ruper reported, the smartphone alert has many questioning the system.

“I was lying in bed and heard an alarm go off. I thought it was the house alarm at first but then realized it was a different sound,” one man awakened by the blaring alert said.

The two children were allegedly abducted by their father and grandfather two hours west of New York City. Police arrested the men around 8 a.m. Friday in Philadelphia and the children were found unharmed.

But the alert system is being criticized by the people it disturbed.

On twitter, Joe wrote “Special thanks to my iPhone Amber Alert for causing morning heart palpitations.”

“I was a little bit annoyed because it did wake me up but at the same time, it was something that needed to get out there for people to see,” one man told Ruper.

“Even if it woke me up, I don’t think it would bother me,” a woman added.

Those wishing to avoid the potential unpleasant early morning wake-up can opt out of receiving the alerts by changing the settings on their smartphone.

But experts said the alerts serve an important purpose.

“The benefits outweigh the frustration you might feel,” privacy and security consultant Alan McCullough told Ruper.

He said the phone alert system may have been better designed if users could choose to opt in. Instead, many are turning the alerts off altogether.

“The awareness message is if you’re receiving it, it’s because that child was abducted somewhere close to you and you might have a hand in saving that child’s life,” McCullough said.

Devices made in 2011 or later are automatically set up to receive the alerts but users can opt out.

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