FTC Robocall Challenge 01.17.2013
The Power of a Community United
Thank you for working towards a solution to end harassing Robocalls and taking the time to review this submission. My approach to a solution to this problem was going to be a combination of a number of ideas that I originally had come up with including a “captcha” “Please press 123 or xyz, etc” to be connected to this call, enhanced software call blocking techniques, and/or hardware firewalls; but in the end I ended up abandoning these ideas because of the inevitable fact that whatever hardware/software solution I [or anyone else] comes up with will almost certainly be circumvented. I cite the following as evidence to this claim: Samsung electronics makes over 5 billion dollars a financial quarter, yet when they try and enact security measures like encrypted bootloaders, these are cracked in a matter of days. The same goes for Apple, Google, and even the Federal Government. While I am sure there are a number of amazing solutions, the enviable truth is there is only one that will ensure that tomorrow, next week or even next year, someone else will come up with a way to beat whatever is enacted to block these obnoxious and illegal Robocalls.
My solution draws inspiration from the Human Genome Project, Phylo, Foldit, and other community based solutions to medical problems. Unfortunately computers, while highly advanced and accomplish many tasks faster and more efficiently than humans, often struggle when tasked to handle some basic functions human beings do without even thinking. Based on this “human” approach I propose the following solution to end Robocalls. 1) Set up a nationwide universal Robocall harassment number (similar to 911). The number “7626” spells out R.O.B.O and would make a good number. 2) Upon receiving a harassing Robocall a person would hang up and dial the number above. An automated message would ask the person to Press 1 if the call was related to political, religious, or other “legal” (I don’t agree, but it’s the law) Robocalls, which would explain per Federal law these types of calls were currently legal. The options would continue and can include things like “Rachael, from Card Holder Services” or any other current nationwide Robocall epidemic. There would be also an option oft “all others”. 3) Currently all phone companies offer the option to dial a number and have the last incoming call automatically traced. Unfortunately, they neglect to tell their customers that the information they collect can only be given to a police department, and every automated trace will cost the owner of the landline money. Furthermore, because Robocalls almost always originate outside a person’s local or state jurisdiction, and due to the amount of complaints the Feds have, it makes current traces like these almost useless. Trust me on this one, I have tried (both feds and local); in the end I was just out more money paid to the phone company, and the “traces” were never used by any law enforcement. It’s time for that to change. With the current system of tracing already in place (thus not costing any extra money for hardware or software), after a user identifies there was a Robocall (by calling 7626) the last number would automatically be traced and sent to the proper federal authorities automatically. 4) After X number of complaints a nationwide block on the phone number by all phone companies would prevent that number from being used. Given the rate the Robocall solicitor’s callout, it should only be a matter of minutes to get a number blocked if everyone reports the Robocall. Federal law enforcement would instantly have information they need to pursue legal action w/o anyone having to jump through hoops or taking the time/money it takes to file complaints through a federal website. Eventually, after a matter of days these Robocall solicitor’s would run out of numbers to use for the calls. 5) Lastly, make it a law that call blocking features currently available to the public are offered free of charge instead of an extra cost. It’s the phone company’s responsibility to deal with these calls, and the public should not have to pay more, on top of their current bill, to set up call blocking. Its time phone companies take responsibility for a problem created by poor enforcement on their part, after all they are the one issuing numbers to these Robocall companies, and one can argue issuing new numbers when old ones are forced down.
Whatever solution someone comes up with must include the ability to evolve as technology changes, or we will be right back where we started with this problem in a matter of weeks. With the fast paced world of technology ever changing, any solution that does not include the ability to adapt to these changes will be almost immediately obsolete. The only way I see to be able to accomplish this task is to involve humans as the solution. Time and time again, this country (and world) have shown that the best way to solve a problem is for the whole community to stand up and tackle it together. We all know the saying “if you see something, say something”; that saying embodies my solution to the Robocall problem. Thank you for your time and consideration.