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]

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

Extended and Mandatory Caller ID
By EricMartello on 10/19/2012 4:49:26 PM , Rating: 3
Robo-callers are annoying and I despise anyone who uses them for any reason. They DEFEAT the purpose of making a phone call.

What I would do is impose a mandate that requires all telcos, both wired, cellular and IP-based, to expand caller ID and make it into a type of validation meta tag.

You would have fields of data that are transmitted to receiving phone PRIOR to the phone ringing. This would allow the person receiving the call to auto-ignore robo-calls, sales calls, bill collectors and ex's who can't accept that it's over.

You could ignore calls based on caller category, individual ID, caller reputation (based on unique complaint:call) ratio or a combination of these (and potentially more). The meta tag would contain a unique ID for each caller so that reporting violations becomes easier and much more accurate.

Go ahead and make that $50K check out to cash.

RE: Extended and Mandatory Caller ID
By Flunk on 10/19/2012 4:58:23 PM , Rating: 2
I wholeheartedly agree, in the last election I vowed not to vote for any candidate that annoyed me with robocalls (I live in Canada). I suggest that everyone else follows suit. If they find out that robocalls negatively effect the poll numbers of candidates they'll be gone tomorrow.

Sometimes, because it's not illegal, I find out the office numbers for the companies that robocall me and set up my computer to call them 3 times every 24 hours at random intervals for the next 2 or 3 months.

Gee, robocalling really should be illegal, shouldn't it?

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki