Pharos-Tribune

Community News Network

April 2, 2013

Slate: Google invents spam filter for your phone

Remember the Do Not Call list? Or the 2009 federal rule that was supposed to stop robocalls?

Odds are they haven't stopped your phone from ringing regularly with maddening automated requests from "Rachel from cardholder services." But perhaps technology can.

That was the theory behind the Federal Trade Commission's "Robocall challenge," a call to the public to come up with technological solutions to the phone-spam problem. The FTC says it receives some 200,000 complaints every month about robocalls — more than it gets on any other subject. Caller-ID spoofing technology has allowed shady telemarketing services to illegally blast millions of people with automated calls, which are often scams. The Robocall challenge was an effort to fight tech with tech.

On Tuesday the FTC announced three winners: two individuals, who will split a $50,000 prize, and a third entry from Google engineers that won in a separate category for companies with more than 10 employees. Google won't get any money, but its solution might be the most robust of the three, if not the most creative.

The proposal, from Google engineers Daniel Klein and Dean Jackson, would crowd-source spam reports to build a real-time database of phone numbers from which robocalls are originating. After a few reports on the same number, algorithms would identify it and block or otherwise flag it for all future callers. That sounds relatively low-tech, but the key is speed. Robocalling systems work too fast for most manual reporting systems to respond to effectively. But if Google or another provider could implement it in a way that makes reporting spam quick and easy, with a single button — as it is for email — and updates the database instantly, it could theoretically block a substantial proportion of unwanted calls.

Of the two winning individual entries, one, from a man named Serdar Danis, would rely on algorithms to recognize caller-ID spoofing. The other, from Aaron Foss, is more imaginative. Called "Nomorobo," Foss' solution would set up a cloud-based "simultaneous ringing" service that would use a virtual second phone line to identify and hang up on robocalls before you could answer them.

The FTC won't implement any of the ideas on its own. Instead, it will rely on the private sector to develop these and other potential solutions.

Oremus is the lead blogger for Future Tense, reporting on emerging technologies, tech policy and digital culture.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Community News Network
  • The Simpsons still going strong

    The groundbreaking animation first hit the air Dec. 17, 1989, but the family first appeared on television in "The Tracey Ullman Show" short "Good Night" on April 19, 1987.

    August 21, 2014

  • Police chief resigns over racial slur repost to Facebook

    A repost on his personal Facebook page of a racially-charged comment by the original poster of a comedy video has forced the police chief of an Oklahoma city to resign his office.

    August 21, 2014

  • Does Twitter need a censor?

    Twitter decided last year to make images more prominent on its site. Now, the social network is finding itself caught between being an open forum and patrolling for inappropriate content.

    August 21, 2014

  • sleepchart.jpg America’s sleep-deprived cities

    Americans might run on sleep, but those living in the country's largest cities don't appear to run on much.

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Who should pay for your kids ACT?

    Thirteen states paid for 11th-grade students in all public high schools to take the ACT college admission test this year, with several more planning to join them in 2015.

    August 20, 2014

  • Pets.jpg Why do people look like their pets?

    As much as we might quibble over the virtues and vices of Canis domesticus, however, and over whether human nature is any better or worse than dog nature, even dog fanciers don't usually want to look like a dog.

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ice bucket challenge trending up

    Internet trends are a dime a dozen these days. Everything from Tebowing to planking to the cinnamon challenge can cause a wave of social media activity that can last for weeks before fizzling out.

    August 19, 2014

  • Africa goes medieval in its fight against Ebola

    As the Ebola epidemic claims new victims at an ever-increasing rate, African governments in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia have instituted a "cordon sanitaire," deploying troops to forcibly isolate the inhabitants in an area containing most of the cases.

    August 18, 2014

  • Democrat? Republican? There's an app for that

    If you're a Republican, you might want to think twice before buying Lipton Iced Tea, and forget about Starbucks coffee. If you're a Democrat, put down that Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, and throw away the cylinder of Quaker Oats in your pantry.

    August 18, 2014

  • Five myths about presidential vacations

    In the nuclear age, presidents may have only minutes to make a decision that could affect the entire world. They don't so much leave the White House as they take a miniature version of it with them wherever they go.

    August 15, 2014

Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Poll

Does Indiana need a statewide water management plan and an administrator to implement it?

Yes
No
Unsure
     View Results
Featured Ads
AP Video
Furry Roommates: Dorms Allowing Cats and Dogs Chase Rice Defends Bro-Country 'Jersey Shore Massacre' Pokes Fun at MTV Series Raw: Wash. Mudslides Close Roads, Trap Motorists DC's Godfather of Go-Go Honored Ukraine Calls Russian Convoy a 'direct Invasion' Girl Meets Her 'one in the World' Match Coal Gas Boom in China Holds Climate Risks Japan Landslide Rescuers Struggle in Heavy Rain Raw: Severe Floods, Fire Wrecks Indiana Homes Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future Raw: Russian Aid Convoy Arrives in Ukraine Okla. Policeman Accused of Sex Assaults on Duty Dominican Republic Bans Miley Cyrus Concert Raw: Israeli Air Strike in Gaza Raw: Bodies of MH17 Victims Arrive in Malaysia Attorney: Utah Eatery Had Other Chemical Burn
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.