The FTC Wants YOU! - To Kill Robocalls

We’ve all been there. The phone rings and it is a number you do not recognize. It might be that potential employer you were waiting to call back or the cute girl you gave your number to at the pub the other day. You pick up the phone answer: “You’ve been pre-selected for a trip for two to Jamaica!” You slam down the phone and curse the ethereal powers that sent you that robocall. It doesn't have to be that way. The Federal Trade Commission announced a contest today that will award $50,000 to the team that creates the best technical solution that will help eliminate robocalls from the face of the Earth.

The FTC Robocall Challenge is offering a cash prize for anybody that can come up with the best way to eliminate robocolls from reaching consumers’ cellphones and landlines. The submission window will start on October 25 and be open till January 17, 2013. Winners, if there are any, will be announced in April 2013. 

3 Simple Rules For Winning The Contest

The criteria for winnings submissions are fairly simple. There are three weighted categories:

  1. Does it work? (50%)
  2. Is it easy to use? (25%)
  3. Can it be rolled out? (25%)

The FTC will provide participants in the challenge with de-identified (not personally identifiable) data on robocall consumer complaints made between June 2008 and September 2012. Data will include date of call, approximate time of call, reported caller name, first seven digits of the reported caller number and consumer area code. 

Creators will retain their intellectual property and teams are encouraged. For full rules and regulations, visit Robocall.Challenge.gov. The contest will be judged by FTC Chief Technologist Steve Bellovin, FCC Chief Technologist Henning Schulzrinne and Kara Swisher of All Things Digital. 

Why Robocalls Are So Tough To Stop

The FTC does not offer this prize lightly. Robocalls are the spam of the telephone industry and they are an insidious scourge created by a complex web of telemarketers, qualifiers, auto-dialers, caller ID spoofing, Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services and telephone carriers. Robocalls are not going to be easy to eliminate. A single robocall can be bounced across the world before it lands at its target. See the charts below: 

Do you have a solution that can block robocalls forever? Enter the FTC contest, or share with us in the comments.

 

Lead image courtesy of Shutterstock.