Why aren’t phone companies developing anti-robocall technologies?

Maureen Mahoney
Public Policy Fellow

Monday, March 9th, 2015

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is really stepping up to the plate to stop robocallers. The agency has just announced TWO new contests to discover robocall-blocking tools. These tools could put a stop to shady robocall scammers and endless telemarketing pitches for good!

We’re impressed with the FTC’s initiative on robocalls. At the same time, we can’t help but wonder: Why aren’t the top engineers at the biggest phone companies creating these tools?

More companies should be using the best available technology to block robocalls now – and pushing their engineers to continually evolve new and better solutions.

The FTC’s first new contest, called Robocalls: Humanity Strikes Back, challenges techies to create a device that allows consumers to block robocalls. It will automatically forward those calls to a “honeypot” – a machine that analyzes and collects their data. This could protect you from those nasty robocalls and help enforcement identify and punish robocall scammers. The winner will receive a $25,000 prize.

The second – Detectarobo – seeks the best algorithm to detect robocallers. This contest is part of the National Day of Civic Hacking, held on June 6, 2015, which allows public-spirited hackers to use their skills to help the community.

The FTC is on a roll with their anti-robocall work. The FTC’s first contest, to create the best robocall-blocker, was a smashing success. The agency received about 800 qualifying submissions, and one of the co-winners, Aaron Foss, eventually brought his service to market. Known as Nomorobo, it’s available to certain Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) customers. A second contest, Zapping Rachel, was held last summer and identified the best “honeypot.” The new contests will build on the progress made in the first two competitions.

It’s time for the phone companies to show the same level of commitment to stopping robocalls.

We’d like to see similarly effective call-blocking technologies available for all consumers, but so far, the phone companies have put up incredible resistance. That’s why we need your help. Sign our petition to tell the top phone companies to stop unwanted robocalls – and please share it on Facebook and Twitter!

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