Apple, Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL), Google (Alphabet, Inc, GOOG), AT&T Inc (NASDAQ:T), Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA) and other not-yet-revealed technology companies have formed a consortium to fight against robocalls, according to the Federal Communications Commission.
The FCC has revealed an Industry-led Robocall Strike Force’s first meeting hosted on August 19 in Washington DC. AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson Chairs the Strike Force. Earlier in July, Tom Wheeler, the FCC Chairman, revealed about the talks with major carriers to implement carrier-level call-blocking services to its users for free.
Strike Force’s Chairman said:
“The strike force will report to the FCC by Oct. 19 on “concrete plans to accelerate the development and adoption of new tools and solutions.”
Reuters reported that the strike force hopes to implement Caller ID verification standards to help block calls from spoofed phone numbers and consider a “Do Not Originate” list that would block spoofers from impersonating legitimate phone numbers from governments, banks or others.
Meanwhile, Apple has already implemented a feature in iOS where users will not get any notification of the call, nor with the phone ring, if a number is in a user’s block list dials. But, Apple’s mobile OS doesn’t have any wide-reaching “black list” of known “robocallers” that could be blocked by default for all users. Meanwhile, there is a workaround, which needs users to mark all important numbers to a “white list” and use “Do not disturb” feature, but it isn’t effective as a universal block list.
There is one more player in the ground, who is silently building a crowd sourced “block lists” that could work better than Apple Inc’s iOS “call block” feature or maybe the upcoming Strike Force’s “block list.” Yes, it is Truecaller.
Available on Android, iOS and Windows Phone platform, Truecaller has recently unleashed a new feature where users around the world can report any unwanted numbers. Its users are provided with extra options to block any reported numbers with a certain limit of “number of reports” by other users. We expect a similar feature with a Universal Standard by the Robocall Strike Force, maybe in a carrier-level implementation.
Here’s the transcript of the Chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Alison Cutler’s speech:
A major part of my work is to help consumers stop unwanted Robocalls and that’s why we’re here today. We’re pleased to be able to host the first meeting of the Robocall Strike Force, an Industry-led group that has come together in response to Chairman Wheeler’s call to give consumers better tools to stop unwanted calls. I look forward to working with you all in my role as the Commission’s liaison to this group.
This morning you will hear from several speakers about the importance of protecting consumers from annoying and often fraudulent Robocals.
First Chairman Wheeler will speak about the steps the Commission has taken to tackle this problem and ways the Strike Force can support this effort by delivering effective solutions for consumers.
Commissioner Clyburn and Commissioner Pai will then provide remarks and the AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson, Chair of the Strike Force, will conclude today’s meeting. Thank you all for being here this morning, and now I will turn it over to Chairman Wheeler.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler:
Thank you Alison, and thank you to all of you who have volunteered your time to spend the next 60 days buckled down on this very important issue.
It is significant that we have not just carriers, not just gateway providers, but also equipment and service providers here at this table because this is a challenge that is going to require everybody’s commitment.
I want to thank my colleagues for joining us today, and I particularly want to thank Randall Stephenson for stepping up to lead this effort.
Because Americans are fed up. Robocalls are a scourge. It’s the number one complaint that we hear from consumers on a daily basis. Over 200,000 calls every year into the FCC, or into our web-based consumer assistance platform to talk about this problem and complain about how consumers are being abused.
Americans have a right to be fed up with this scourge. It’s an invasion of privacy and it is rife with fraud and identity theft. And the problem is that the bad guys are beating the good guys with technology right now. Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls from scammers in foreign countries rely on networks that aren’t ready to deal with them. The ability to spoof a legitimate phone number is the downside to a digital environment.
But, I also want to go back and reiterate that this isn’t just a network problem. This is a community problem. This has to do with those who run, who build and operate networks, whose who build and operate equipments, those who build and operate services, and that’s why it’s significant that you all collectively here at this table.
The profit motive has driven the bad guys to exploit to a level of technological innovation that exploits consumers by exploiting networks and equipments. It’s not as if the good guys have been standing idly by. But this is something that requires everybody to pull together and to have an urgency in finding solutions.
So thank you to this group for bending to the task of proposing solutions within 60 days. It is significant that the working groups are going to be meeting at least twice a week to keep to that schedule. But let me be clear, this is an industry group. We believe in multi-stakeholder solutions. And when the whole ecosystem can come together, it can produce results. But without results, we will be forced to look for other solutions because this scourge must stop. So let’s set some goals for 60 days hence.
1: Authentication Standards for voice calls, including gateway verifications as well as for TDM voice. We know that Standards bodies have been working on this. We need to come to conclusions.
Watch the complete meeting on a video here.