April 2nd, 2013 | Published in Google Public Policy
Every month, the Federal Trade Commission receives over 200,000 consumer complaints about robocalls. These phone calls can not only be annoying, they also can be a vehicle for cheating consumers and stealing their identities. While law enforcement agencies work to crack down on these fraudsters, unscrupulous robocallers continue to find ways to swindle consumers.
Back in October, the FTC issued its first-ever technology challenge to innovators to conceptualize solutions to this problem. The FTC Robocall Challenge called for “solutions and proofs of concept” for reducing robocalls on mobile and landline phones. Recognizing that innovative solutions often rely on data analysis, the FTC also made over four years worth of consumer complaint data about robocalls available to challenge participants.
Inspired by this desire to tap into the innovative spirit, Google engineers submitted their idea for a crowd-sourced solution for consumers to avoid robocalls. By harnessing the knowledge of the crowd, the Internet can often tackle and solve otherwise difficult problems consumers face. Our engineers were honored today to accept the FTC’s Technology Achievement Award for their submission, which recommended tapping into the power of the Internet to target persistent robocalls that disrupt consumers.
The fact that the FTC received nearly 800 submissions shows that there is a real thirst from innovators to work with the agency to help consumers. Collaboration with tech experts is a critical component of the FTC’s consumer protection mission, and the robocall challenge was itself an innovative approach for inspiring a broad group of tech enthusiasts to think up possible ways to stop these real consumer harms. We are proud that Google engineers stepped up to help spark solutions to take on troublesome robocalls.