Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Halting Robocalls Gets Researchers' Attention

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Halting Robocalls Gets Researchers' Attention

Article excerpt

Rachel, meet Serdar Danis and Aaron Foss.

They are innovators who have come up with solutions to put you and your annoying robocalling colleagues out of business.

Danis, a computer engineer, and Foss, a freelance software developer, shared the $50,000 first prize in a Federal Trade Commission contest to find ways to halt the billions of illegal prerecorded calls that invade our privacy at all hours of the day and night.

Both entries use technology to "blacklist" robocaller phone numbers and "whitelist" numbers associated with acceptable incoming calls, the FTC said. Their proposals also would filter out unapproved robocallers by using a test to prevent illegal calls from ringing through to a user.

In addition, two Pittsburgh-based Google engineers, Daniel Klein and Dean Jackson, shared the Robocall Challenge Technology Achievement Award for organizations that employ 10 or more people. It does not include a monetary prize.

Their entry, with the awkward title Crowd-Sourced Call Identification and Suppression, involves using automated algorithms that identify spam callers.

The winners were announced Tuesday at a briefing in Washington.

"The solutions that our winners came up with have the potential to turn the tide on illegal robocalls, and they show the wisdom of tapping into the genius and technical expertise of the public," said Charles Harwood, acting director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection.

The FTC gets 200,000 complaints about robocalls a month, more than any other subject.

"Consumers are clearly fed up," Harwood said. "We're hoping these winning proposals find their way to the marketplace soon, and will provide relief to millions of American consumers harassed by these calls."

In recent years, the FTC has successfully halted several businesses responsible for billions of robocalls, including many from "Rachel from Card Services." But no sooner is one shut down than another pops up.

So the FTC turned to the public for help last October, issuing a challenge to any individual or small group to find a multidimensional technological solution, one that gives consumers tools to reduce robocalls or block them entirely, Harwood said. …

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