FTC contest winner looks to end robocalls

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A mobile app is trying to get rid of those pesky robocalls once and for all.

The app is called Robokiller and works similar to your email’s spam folder. While the company does have a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds, the developers just received $25,000 from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) from their Robocalls: Humanity Strikes Back contest.

The FTC has seen a significant increase in the number of illegal robocalls because internet-powered phone systems have made it cheap and easy for scammers to make illegal calls from anywhere in the world, and to display fake caller ID information.

The FTC has brought more than a hundred lawsuits against over 600 companies and individuals responsible for billions of illegal robocalls and other Do Not Call violations.

The challenge the FTC gave contestants was to create a tool that people could use to block and forward robocalls automatically to a crowd-sourced honeypot – a data collection system that researchers and investigators can use to study the calls. Contestants hold the intellectual property rights of their projects.

RoboKiller relies on universally available call forwarding that works on both landline and mobile phones, and uses audio-fingerprint technology to identify robocalls. Users of the app have control of filtering and other settings.

“Before a user’s phone rings, we trick robocallers to start playing their recorded messages so that we can start our analysis. Live callers hear traditional ringing during this process. If RAE determines that a call is from a robot, it never rings through; we send it straight to the user’s SpamBox in the RoboKiller app. Humans, on the other hand, ring through to the user as soon as their legitimacy is confirmed.” – Ethan Garr and Bryan Moyles developers of Robokiller

The app is still in development are there are a few issues that haven’t been ironed out.

Wired brought up the issue of privacy as the app screens all calls to your phone. That means that there is the possibility of the app having a database of all of your calls.

Another issue is if the app will remain free or become a paid service. On their website, RoboKiller says their beta is a free app. However, they do admit that they may charge in the future for their service.

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