Oh, lord. Robocalls may be going stealth. And your voicemail could become useless as a result.
The Republican Party and others are pushing the Federal Communications Commission to clear the way for robocalls that would go straight to your voicemail without your mobile phone ever ringing, says a Wednesday report by Recode.
No ring, no "call" -- which would let the messages sidestep a rule that says groups must get your written consent before targeting your phone with pleas for votes or pitches for products. That's the thinking anyway, and supporters of the strategy want the FCC to make it official.
Subjecting such sneaky robocalls to the prior consent rule "would not only restrict an important form of nonintrusive communication; it would have serious consequences for the First Amendment rights of those engaged in political communication via telephone," the Republican National Committee said in comments filed with the FCC earlier this month (PDF). The RNC didn't respond to a request for further comment.
Critics, on the other hand, say bye-bye voicemail. Margot Freeman Saunders, a lawyer with the National Consumer Law Center, told Recode that allowing this kind of stealthy spam would leave many people "completely overwhelmed by messages" they can't block.
The Democratic party didn't respond to a request for comment on its position regarding "ringless voicemail."
You can comment though, to the FCC, regardless of your stance on the situation.
Simply go here. In the "Proceedings" field, type in "02-278." That should bring up a list item that says "Rules and Regulations Implementing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991." Select that; then fill out the rest of the form and make your feelings known in the "Brief Comments" section.
It's not clear whether your filing will cause the FCC commissioners' phones to ring in the middle of dinner--or instead make their voicemail go nuts. But hey, if you exercise your right to free speech, perhaps we'll find out.
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