detectaroboEach month, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) receives 250,000 to 300,000 complaints. More than 60% of those complaints are for robocalls. According to FTC spokesperson Lois Greisman, the number of telemarketing complaints has “skyrocketed” in recent years. “If this were a disease, it would be an epidemic,” notes Susan Grant, Director of Consumer Protection for the Consumer Federation of America.

These complaints continue despite the National Do Not Call Registry, and other rules that make commercial prerecorded robocalls illegal. To help fight back, Pindrop is teaming up with the FTC on two upcoming competitions, designed to crowd-source solutions to the robocalling problem.

The first, Detectarobo, is a data analytic contest to be held during the National Day of Civic Hacking on June 6, 2015. Contestants will be given two sets of call data from the Pindrop PhoneypotTM. The first set will indicate which calls are likely robocalls. The second set won’t. Contestants will need to develop an algorithm based on the first set of data to predict which of the calls in the second set are robocalls.

The second contest is the “Robocalls: Humanity Strikes Back” initiative. Contestants are being asked to create a technical solution for consumers that will identify unwanted robocalls received on landlines or mobile phones, and block and forward those calls to a honeypot, or system for catching the fraudsters. A qualifying phase of the contest launches today and runs through June 15, 2015; and a second and final phase concludes at security conference DEF CON 23 on Aug. 9, 2015. Contestants will compete for up to $50,000 in prizes.

The FTC’s Cheryl Warner told Ars Technica, “We have two goals with the challenges announced today: 1) improve on the outcomes from last year’s (Zapping Rachel) challenge with respect to the creation of an analytic algorithm and create a crowd-source honeypot without predetermining the approaches; and 2) expand the number and type of experts engaged in the fight against robocalls.”

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