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By GCN Staff

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Telemarketing

Coders called to a higher purpose: Blocking illegal robocalls

Telemarketing calls, the original spam, have been a bane of modern existence for decades, consistently finding ways around efforts to stop the practice.

Regulatory efforts in the past have slowed but haven’t stopped them. Back in 1991, a Chicago lawyer came up with a creative way to fight back, keeping telemarketers on the line and then billing them for his time (and they sometimes paid up). He then started an organization to teach other people how to do it. But still the calls continued.

Even the National Do Not Call Registry hasn’t entirely stopped the practice, perhaps because only law-abiding marketers observe the registry’s restrictions.

A major source of these calls today are robocalls, automated messages from operations that aren’t exactly on the up-and-up. “The vast majority of telephone calls that deliver a prerecorded message trying to sell something to the recipient are illegal,” the Federal Trade Commission says.

So the FTC wants technically adept people to do something about it, and is offering $50,000 to whoever can some up with the most effective way of blocking such calls. The FTC Robocall Challenge invites individuals, independent teams, for-profit legal entities and non-profit groups to propose technical solutions for how to block illegal robocalls.

Contestants can submit entries between Oct. 25 and Jan. 17 for proposals to block robocalls on landlines, cell phones or, if you want a really high score, both, the FTC says in nits rules for the contest. The agency expects to announce a winner sometime around April 1, 2013.

And in addition to the $50,000, the FTC points out, the winner will likely be something of a national hero.

Posted by Kevin McCaney on Oct 19, 2012 at 9:39 AM


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