The FCC Has Started Publicly Shaming Robocallers Weekly
from the playing-the-shame-game dept
While there’s been no limit of hand wringing from the grumpy grandpa corners of the Internet about the mean old “over-reaching” FCC, the agency has actually been making some good decisions lately. Reclassifying ISPs under Title II and passing tough net neutrality rules (which, contrary to chicken littles has been a good thing so far), stopping ISPs from buying state protectionist broadband law, cracking down on cramming, thwarting convention centers from blocking personal Wi-Fi so you’ll use their pricey services; there’s a lot of pro-consumer, pro innovation, pro-competition issues the FCC has woken up to after a fifteen year slumber.
And back in May the FCC announced (pdf) that it was taking aim at the number one issue consumers complain to the FCC about: robocalling. The FCC said it was considering new rules that would not only make it easier for consumers to opt out of marketing pitches via phone or SMS, but make it clear that voice and wireless carriers can offer new robocall-blocking services without violating call-completion rules. While ISPs like Sonic applauded the FCC’s plan, the agency was of course sued by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who claimed the FCC “overstepped its authority by creating new restrictions on legitimate, good faith communications from businesses to their customers.”
Undaunted by yet another lawsuit in its growing pile, the FCC has moved forward and announced it’s also going to start listing robocaller phone numbers every week to make it easier for consumers and services to blacklist them. That monthly data is now compiled here for your perusal each week, published as a downloadable CSV file. The FCC says its goal is to help streamline the war on dinner-interrupting robocallers:
“This data will help improve do-not-disturb technologies so they can provide the best service for consumers,? said Alison Kutler, chief of the FCC?s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, which manages consumer complaints. ?As we encourage providers to offer these services, and as the Commission recently made clear that there are no legal barriers to doing so, we continue to look for ways to help facilitate important consumer tools.”
Call blocking services like NomoRobo have applauded the move, noting that previously they needed to file time-consuming FOIA requests to obtain this data:
“For the past 2 years I have been advocating for all of the government organizations to report this data. And the push-back that we always get is well there?s personally identifiable information, what about the consumer, how do we protect the consumer, and what I?ve been saying is, listen we don?t need to know any consumer information. All that we need to know is what is the robocallers phone number. If we get that, that really helps us.”
Of course, this is just a step in the right direction, and not a killing blow. Most robocallers make heavy use of number spoofing technology, meaning that fighting robocalling will always be a massive game of Whac-a-Mole no matter what. The FCC’s going to need to remain vigilant in keeping the list up to date and accurate, since the organic response by robocallers will be to rotate faster than ever through spoofed numbers. Still, while no single solution is going to kill robocalling, the FCC’s overall actions of late should lend a hand. Meanwhile, consumers with a little extra free time on their hands can help by making robocalling less profitable and more annoying by checking out robocaller time wasters like Lenny.