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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:

...is 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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Audio information
By vailr on 10/20/2012 1:55:23 AM , Rating: 2
Robocalls mostly seem to have a distinctive difference in audio characteristic. If the audio spectrum of every incoming call could be instantly analyzed, that may be a way to detect robocalls.
Caller ID could also be mandated to correlate to precise GPS co-ordinates of the caller. And: any incoming phone call could be instantly reported as being "spam" (via pressing * + # on the keypad, or something like that) to a reporting agency. Then enough similar reports would signal an investigation to drive over and physically confront the offending spammer by a badge carrying FTC official.




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