FTC Robocall Challenge Offers $50K Bounty for Innovative Solutions to Block Illegal Robocalls

FTC Robocall Challenge Offers $50K Bounty for Innovative Solutions to Block Illegal Robocalls

There are few things more annoying than rushing to answer the phone at the most inopportune time only to find out that the caller is just a prerecorded message. These so-called "robocalls" have become the bane of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), especially as advances in technology make it easier for telemarketers to get around the current blocks the FTC have in place. Looking to step up its game, the FTC wants your help, and it's willing to pay a $50,000 cash prize to the person or team of individuals who comes up with the best overall solution to blocking robocalls on landlines and mobile phones.

"Pursuant to its enforcement of the Telemarketing Sales Rule, the FTC has stopped entities responsible for billions of illegal robocalls. However, as technology has continued to advance, the need for new and innovative ways to block these illegal calls has increased. The FTC is challenging innovators to create solutions that will block illegal robocalls now and in the future," the FTC states in a related FAQ.

Angry Phone
Image Source: Flickr (TheGiantVermin)

It's a pretty open-ended contest that doesn't require the use of a specific API (Application Programming Language) or any particular device. Submissions will be judged on three main criteria, including:
  1. Does it work? (weighted at 50 percent)
  2. Is it easy to use? (weighted at 25 percent)
  3. Can it be rolled out? (weighted at 25 percent)

Fame and possibly fortune are two other potential perks to winning the contest. The person that submits the winning technology will likely be lauded a "national hero," according to David Vladeck, head of the FTC's consumer protection bureau. In additions, participants retain the intellectual rights to their submissions, so even beyond the $50,000 prize, a winning submission could be worth a lot of money.

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Publicly execute the next person found to be using a robo-dialer on mobile numbers.

I'd like my $50k now, please.

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There are two steps to ending robomarketing:

(1) Make it a Federal felony to manufacture a robodialing system without a very expensive FTC license, say $50,000 per device (adjusted annually to stay 1% ahead of inflation).

(2) Make it a Federal felony to use a robodialing system for marketing purposes (and that includes political marketing).

Although I like the idea of creating a "robomarketer hunting season" in which every American citizen is given the opportunity to buy ear tags for $5 each, and permitted to shoot and kill telemarketers. The dialing device must, of course, be attached to the telemarketer's ear, or the hunter would have to pay a $50 fine.

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