The Federal Trade Commission posted a challenge several months ago on the US Government’s Challenge.gov website. The purpose of the challenge is to stop illegal robocalls. It’s tricky for so many reasons:
- Caller ID is the main way to identify the source of calls…but it is trivial to spoof
- Carriers have legal obligations that limit their ability to monitor calls to consumers and to act on their behalf (and this is a good thing!)
- Illegal robocallers are, by definition, already breaking the law. Most solutions proposed only really help if all the telemarketers already follow the rules — or they just try to add more rules that illegal robocallers will break
- Systems that can identify 99% of illegal robocalls still run the risk of blocking 1% of legitimate calls, and that risk is too high for some groups (think: sole proprietorships, doctors on call)
At the end of the day, there is no single, comprehensive, easy-to-deploy and easy-to-use solution. If there were, it would already be in place! Instead we need something that works today and a plan for how to close the gaps tomorrow.
This entry is our proposal to that end and is based on our experience building apps very similar to this for our customers. It is not yet listed on the FTC website, so we wanted to make it available for review here. Comments here or on the FTC website (when it appears there) are welcome. While we don’t know whether we have the winning solution, we do believe that many of the concepts here represent a starting point for systems that can address the issue. We want to be part of the solution.
Update: The proposal is now visible on the FTC’s Robocall Challenge website.