WASHINGTON -- There may one day soon be another way to fight those prerecorded phone pitches known as robocalls. The Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday announced winners for its national contest to develop a blocking technology for illegal sales calls.
The winners are Aaron Foss, a freelance software developer based in Long Island, N.Y., and Serdar Danis, a computer engineer who did not wish to disclose his hometown. Each winner will receive $25,000. Their technologies involve software that could analyze and filter calls to screen out those being placed from a computer or from someone who has been identified as an unwanted caller.
The judges also selected two Pittsburgh-based Google computer engineers as the winners of a separate category, which did not include a cash prize, for organizations that employ 10 or more people.
Daniel Klein and Dean Jackson were cited for their technology, which helps identify caller-ID spoofing that masks the original number of the call so that when people try to call back the robocaller, they get a disconnected number or something other than the source of the original call.
The FTC's do-not-call list has decreased the number of unwanted calls for many consumers, but commission officials acknowledge that new technology has allowed plenty of unwanted calls to slip through. Pre-recorded commercial robocalls are illegal even if a consumer is not on the do-not-call list. Those calls may only be placed if someone has given their consent.
The FTC is not endorsing any of the winning technologies, but hopes the contest will lead to private industry embracing these new ideas and eventually offering consumers another way to combat robocalls and other unwanted phone solicitations.