Print 44 comment(s) - last by superstition.. on Oct 25 at 6:58 PM

Contest will only stop "illegal" robocalls, i.e. those intended to sell a product or receive a donation

With just two weeks before Americans elect their next president, both incumbent Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are busy -- in digital form -- harassing beleaguered voters with robocalls.  Both candidates vowed not to funnel super political action committee (PAC) funds to pay for third-parties to conduct the practice that many find annoying, but both candidates -- awash in hundreds of million from a record-shattering campaign on both sides of the aisle to court special interests -- appear to have abandoned their promises.

But the U.S. Federal Trade Commission is offering a bit of solace to frustrated citizens.  It has created a "prize competition" called the "Robocall Challenge", which: intended to provide recognition to individuals, teams of individuals, for-profit legal entities and/or non-profit organizations (collectively, “Contestants”) for developing proposed technical solutions or functional solutions and proofs of concepts that can block illegal robocalls (each a “Solution”).

U.S. federal telemarketing laws outlaw most robocalls looking to sell products (though the aforementioned political calls are legal).  The competition focuses on block "illegal" calls, so it won't exactly offer relief from the advertising.

But for those with an axe to grind against the pesky automatons of the phone lines, you can win up to $50,000 USD yourself or as an organization/group of less than 10 individuals.

Robocall frustration
The FTC feels your pain. [Image Source: FTC]

The FTC will be providing participants with data to use in the study.  The Commission will be holding a Q&A session on the event on Oct. 25, the day the program kicks off.  The contest will run through January 17, 2013, at 5:00 pm ET, with winners announced in April.

Winners will be selected based on:
  • Whether their solution works (particularly on mobile devices) (50 percent of the score)
  • Ease of use (25 percent)
  • How easy it is to roll out (25 percent)
Not everyone is so intent on killing the robocaller, though.  University of Denver Political Science Professor Seth Masket in a recent interview with a CBS Corp. (CBS) station commented, "It’s really just a very inexpensive way to contact a lot of people at once.  You don’t even really need employees to run the thing. It’s so inexpensive to contact that one extra person that as long as you’ve persuaded even a handful of people, it can be seen as worth it."

We're guessing he won't be entering the contest.

Source: FTC [PDF]

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Automated Cruise missiles!
By geddarkstorm on 10/19/2012 1:13:56 PM , Rating: 6
Nuking the robo-centers from orbit... it's the only way to be sure.

RE: Automated Cruise missiles!
By KC7SWH on 10/19/2012 1:41:03 PM , Rating: 3
A very well deserved 6.

RE: Automated Cruise missiles!
By Souka on 10/19/2012 4:26:38 PM , Rating: 2
a 5 gallon gas can + 5 gallons of gas + a lighter...$25

At that cost you could burn down 2000 robo calling centers...

RE: Automated Cruise missiles!
By marvdmartian on 10/22/2012 11:02:25 AM , Rating: 2
You obviously haven't purchased gasoline or gas cans lately. If we get the lighter for $1, that leaves $24 to buy the can and 5 gallons of gas.

5 gallons of gas, at my local price of $3.35/gallon, will come out to $16.75. Add $17 for the 5-gallon can, plus the dollar for the lighter, and you're up to almost $35.

But yeah, I get what you were alluding to. ;)

How about death penalty for people who set up robocallers? A 9MM bullet is only ~$0.25!

RE: Automated Cruise missiles!
By javiergf on 10/19/2012 2:31:34 PM , Rating: 3
+9,000 thumbs up to Lt. Ripley here

RE: Automated Cruise missiles!
By Uncle on 10/19/2012 2:57:56 PM , Rating: 3
I found a couple of new "Screen Machine" from a few years back at a thrift store for a buck each. Excellent idea. First ring, we have a recorded message saying we don't want to be solicited,but if they want us to call them back at their suppertime, to please leave a number, anyone else hit 5 to connect, we notified our friends to just hit 5, that keeps the computer robocalls from getting through. Haven't received one unwanted call since.

RE: Automated Cruise missiles!
By Xplorer4x4 on 10/20/12, Rating: 0
RE: Automated Cruise missiles!
By Mint on 10/21/2012 10:53:38 PM , Rating: 2
The problem with this solution is that it only works because so few people are using it. If it was in wide use, it would be very simple for someone to write software to recognize whatever hoops you have regular callers go through to get through to them.

I've even heard of robocallers that try to carry a little conversation at first!

RE: Automated Cruise missiles!
By martin5000 on 10/22/2012 7:16:49 AM , Rating: 2
In the UK we don't get these robo callers, but I do fairly often get automated calls from banks verifying payments from my accounts, surely your machine filters out these as well?

RE: Automated Cruise missiles!
By jnemesh on 10/19/2012 4:36:57 PM , Rating: 2
You beat me to it! I was thinking nukes myself! Great answer!

RE: Automated Cruise missiles!
By Reclaimer77 on 10/19/12, Rating: -1
RE: Automated Cruise missiles!
By Jeffk464 on 10/20/2012 11:51:13 AM , Rating: 2
Sure, just dump your land line. I'll forward my info on where to receive the $50k check.

RE: Automated Cruise missiles!
By Jeffk464 on 10/20/2012 11:52:19 AM , Rating: 2
ah, send the check

RE: Automated Cruise missiles!
By vapore0n on 10/22/2012 7:32:53 AM , Rating: 3
I think you missed the part where 50% of the score is for a solution that works with mobile phones. Meaning cellphones do get robocalled too.

I'm guessing your next though will be to dump the cellphone too.

RE: Automated Cruise missiles!
By NellyFromMA on 10/22/2012 1:11:25 PM , Rating: 2
So, basically if you can device a way to solve this problem, you will get .00000000000001 % of the commercial success of your idea....

No thanks. Solve the problem, patent, and enjoy!

RE: Automated Cruise missiles!
By superstition on 10/25/2012 6:53:10 PM , Rating: 2
If the government wanted them stopped, they'd be stopped.

But, by all means, continue with juvenile nonsense about nukes.

"We are going to continue to work with them to make sure they understand the reality of the Internet.  A lot of these people don't have Ph.Ds, and they don't have a degree in computer science." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis

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