The Federal Trade Commission recently wrapped up a contest designed to find an effective solution to combat robocalls – spammy automated phone calls that deliver a pre-recorded message to unlucky recipients. The annoying messages account for roughly 200,000 complaints each month – enough for the FTC to cough up a $50,000 prize for whoever could come up with the best method to put an end to the unwanted calls.
Nearly 800 eligible entries were submitted but when it was all said and done, the FTC ultimately selected two winners to split the grand prize: Serdar Danis and Aaron Foss. Both will receive $25,000 for their proposals which both focus on intercepting and filtering out illegal prerecorded calls.
The FTC also issued a third non-monetary prize for organizations with 10 or more employees. Daniel Klein and Dean Jackson from Google were awarded the Robocall Challenge Technology Achievement Award for their Crowd-Sourced Call Identification and Suppression solution. This method would use automated algorithms to identify spam callers, the FTC said.
Charles Harwood, Acting Director, FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said the winners’ solutions have the potential to turn the tide on illegal robocalls and show the wisdom of tapping into the genius and technical expertise of the public.
Submissions were evaluated based on whether or not the proposal actually worked (worth 50 percent), how easy it is to use (25 percent) and if it can actually be implemented (25 percent). FTC Chief Technologist Steve Bellovin, FCC Chief Technologist Henning Schulzrinne, and Kara Swisher, Co-Executive Editor of All Things D were responsible for judging the contest.