New FTC Robocall Challenge Winner, RoboKiller, Attacks Robocalls
Public Policy Fellow
Watch out, robocall scammers – there’s a new app, RoboKiller, that could put a stop to many of those pesky robocalls.
Created by Ethan Garr and Brian Moyles, RoboKiller just won the Federal Trade Commission’s latest robocall contest, Robocalls: Humanity Strikes Back. Garr and Moyles were awarded a $25,000 prize. Contestants were asked to create software to automatically detect and stop robocalls from reaching the consumer, and forward them to system known as a “honeypot” for analysis.
The End Robocalls team recently spoke to Garr about the app. According to Garr, RoboKiller automatically filters calls featuring a recorded voice and places them in “junk” folders, similar to the junk folder in your email inbox.
The app works through the call forwarding service on your phone. Incoming calls are sent to the app, which answers the call for a few seconds, analyzes it, and uses an algorithm to decide whether it should be sent directly to you or sent to voicemail.
Consumers can mark the robocalls they want to receive, like emergency alerts, as legitimate so that they will ring through as usual. In the future, Garr says, users will be able to easily whitelist all of their contacts.
The app won’t protect consumers from all unwanted calls. Right now, the device doesn’t screen live scammers who contact you using an autodialer – though Garr points out that autodialers may disconnect during the call analysis. And, while the app protects home phones, consumers also need a smartphone to use it. Still, the new app is a promising new tool that could protect consumers from robocall scammers.
Garr says that “[it] would be relatively simple” for phone companies to offer their product to their customers. In the meantime, the RoboKiller team has released their beta app to the Apple App Store.
This is exactly the type of innovative thinking that the phone companies should be doing. Phone companies should make free, effective tools to block robocalls available to all consumers. We applaud Garr and Moyles for showing that it’s possible to create these kinds of tools.