Killing Illegal Robocalls With The Help Of The Public
Last year, the FTC launched a contest offering $50,000 to the person or team who could design a system that would help solve the problem of illegal robocalls. The winners of the prize were revealed today.
On Tuesday the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced the winners of a contest launched last October to find a system that would work to protect customers from illegal robocalls. One of the winners, New York-based freelance software developer Aaron Foss, created a system — with the simple and catchy title of “Nomorobo” — that checks robocalls against a blacklist and a whitelist. Only those on the whitelist go through to the customer’s phone. If a number isn’t on either list, the caller is presented with an audio version of a CAPTCHA — “Please enter the number 71”, for example — to confirm that he or she isn’t a robot. For this, Foss won half of a $50,000 cash prize.
What’s the Big Idea?
At 200,000 complaints per month, illegal robocalls are the most common customer issue reported to the FTC. The challenge was to find a system that would filter out the bad while allowing the good, since for some organizations, including charities, robocalls are legal. The FTC itself won’t build the winning systems; Foss is using his share of the prize to help bring Nomorobo to market, and is open to working with private-sector companies.