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iOS 13 wants to help fight spam calls with Siri

A small new feature could have big implications for ending our long national nightmare.

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Among the many new features of iOS 13: A new way to automatically forward unknown calls. 

Screenshot by Juan Garzon/CNET

Apple may have a new way to fight the robocall epidemic: Siri

Buried toward the bottom of its new iOS 13 features page, Apple lists an update for the Phone app. Called "Silence unknown callers," the new setting aims to use "Siri intelligence to allow calls to ring your phone from numbers in Contacts, Mail and Messages. All other calls are automatically sent to voicemail."

It is currently unclear what exactly "Siri intelligence" will entail, such as if Apple is utilizing any registries of known spam numbers, or if it is just limiting incoming calls to known numbers. 

Carriers, as well as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), have increasingly become more proactive in fighting robocalls and spammers. T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T each offer free solutions to block spam calls, T-Mobile through its Scam ID and Scam Block features and Verizon through its opt-in iOS and Android app called "Call Filter." AT&T offers opt-in automatic fraud blocking through its "Call Protect" iOS and Android apps. 

All four major wireless carriers, in addition to home phone providers such as Comcast and AT&T, have either announced plans or begun implementing FCC-endorsed call-verification technology known as STIR/SHAKEN across their respective networks to help fight this plague, even for calls made between rival networks (iOS 13 will also support STIR/SHAKEN call verification).

On Thursday, the FCC gave wireless carriers an additional capability to block robocalls for consumers by default. 

Any help in the fight is welcome. A January report from Hiya, a caller ID service, said there were 26.3 billion robocalls made in the US in 2018. The number breaks down to an average of 10 monthly calls per person. 

Contributing: Marguerite Reardon