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FTC offers $50,000 to robocall killers

A menace to business and consumer alike, robocall removal is now under the eye of the Federal Trade Commission.

Charlie Osborne Contributing Writer
Charlie Osborne is a cybersecurity journalist and photographer who writes for ZDNet and CNET from London. PGP Key: AF40821B.
Charlie Osborne
2 min read

The Federal Trade Commission is offering a cash reward of $50,000 to whoever develops a solution to block robotic calling on both landlines and mobiles.

In 2009, the FTC banned automatic commercial telemarketing calls -- but solicitation is still a problem as advanced technology makes illegal, irritating calls more difficult to block.

The FTC Robocall Challenge site says that anyone who wants to take on the war with robo-marketeers can submit their idea from October 25 to January 17.

The FTC is asking these basic questions: does it work? Is it easy to use? And can it be rolled out?

If you want to take part, your idea will be marked based on a number of set criteria. The solution has to be tailored for illegal robocalls, and so must permit legal calls including being reached out to by political parties, charities, and health care providers. It must not block reverse-911 calls.

In addition, your idea will be marked on ease of customer use, the variety of consumer phones that can be protected, and whether it can be used by those with disabilities. The flexibility of an idea is also important, as the FTC wants to know how easily robocallers could adapt or counter a scheme if it were rolled out nationwide.

From a commercial perspective, ideas will gain hefty points if they are compatible with today's marketplace -- in other words, would an idea require changes to all phone switches worldwide -- or could it simply be distributed by line providers?

Entries can be in the form of idea proposals, fully functional solutions, and proofs of concept. The winner will get $50,000 and a trip to D.C, where the creator or team will present the winning solution. Runners up are given the Federal Trade Commission Technology Achievement Award, but no cash prize.

Entrants keep the intellectual property rights of their submission.