Robocalls: What A Pain In The A$$
April 9, 2013

Robocalls: What A Pain In The A$$

Back in June 2003, Americans countrywide began joining the ‘do-not-call’ registry. In fact more than 217 million of us have done so according to a CNN article about robocalls. Yet many of us still receive these robocalls, which are calls sent out by companies by autodial technology with a prerecorded message. They are annoying, impersonal, and illegal regardless of a whether a person is on the ‘do-not-call’ registry or not. The only way companies can legally use robocalls is with written authorization from each person.

Obviously, companies are not standing by that. redOrbit explains that some 200,000 Americans complain to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) per a year. So in a proactive effort to address the issue, the FTC announced a nationwide contest for the public to submit ideas on how to solve this difficult problem. They received more than 800 eligible submissions, and two winners were announced in early April 2013.

The two winners of the “Best Overall Solution” to the problem of illegal robocalls came from freelance software developer Aaron Foss and computer engineer Serdar Danis. Both proposed software solutions that intercept and filter prerecorded calls in order to screen them out. These two ingenious men will receive a $25,000 (USD) prize from the FTC and the opportunity to sell their ideas. Let’s take a closer look at those.

Aaron Foss

As redOrbit puts it, “Foss’s proposal, entitled “Nomorobo,” is a cloud-based solution that employs “simultaneous ringing” that allows incoming calls to be routed to a second telephone line, which would identify and hang up on illegal robocalls before they could ring through to the user.”

What a creative way to deal with unwanted robocalls. The technology would do all the work. I can definitely get behind that.

Serdar Danis

Let’s look at redOrbit’s words: “Danis’s proposal, entitled “Robocall Filtering System and Device with Autonomous Blacklisting, Whitelisting, GrayListing and Caller ID Spoof Detection,” analyzes and blocks robocalls using software that could be implemented as a mobile app, an electronic device in a user’s home or a feature of a provider’s telephone service.”

I like the options this proposal provides. Individuals could use the app, a device, or even a telephone feature to eliminate these illegal dialings.

Additionally, the FTC selected two Google engineers (Daniel Klein and Dean Jackson) to receive a non-monetary prize. redOrbit explains their submission with, “Klein and Jackson submitted a “Crowd-Sourced Call Identification and Suppressionproposal that would help identify caller-ID spoofing, in which the original calling number is masked so a person cannot call the robocaller back.”

All three of these proposals are creative and hold serious possibility. Though I do wish the governmental organizations would do something about robocalls, I also like that the FTC sought out private ideas in order to address an annoying (and illegal) problem. The robocalls annoy consumers and then the consumers call into the FTC. I would imagine 200,000 such complaints annoy the FTC, too. Moreover, robocalls are illegal.

Something needs to happen to companies that use this technology. Perhaps one of these proposals would work not only to prevent such calls but also to punish those companies that illegally use robocalls.

Perhaps rather soon a day will come where we won’t be interrupted during dinner, travel, or rest with an annoying robo-voice. Danis, Foss, Klein, and Jackson just might have the answer.

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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