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Technology & Innovation

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.

What’s the Latest Development?

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.

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Read it at Ars Technica


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