Win Up to $25,000 in FTC’s Robocall Crackdown Contests

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The FTC calls on humans to help in the battle against the scourge of robocalls.

The FTC is cracking down on robocalls, and you can win up to $25,000 to help hang up on the annoying interruptions, especially if you’re tech savvy.

Just a day after the Federal Trade Commission announced a $7.7 million civil penalty against a Florida cruise line and seven other companies allegedly masking robocalls as a legal political survey, the agency announced two contests challenging the public to help it fight telemarketers who misuse phone lines.

Both contests involve a honeypot, an information system that may be used by government, private and academic partners to lure and analyze robocalls. The FTC wants the public to develop a crowd-source honeypot and better analyze data from an existing honeypot.

The challenges are part of the FTC’s long-term multipronged effort to combat illegal robocallers, and contestants of one of the challenges will compete for $25,000 in a top prize.

Consumers have previously sought to fight back on their own by tormenting telemarketers and finding ways to keep them at bay.

“At the Federal Trade Commission we know that consumers on the Do Not Call Registry continue to receive illegal and unwanted telemarketing calls, and that robocalls in particular are a growing problem,” FTC commissioner Terrell McSweeny said in a public statement. “Law enforcement alone cannot put a stop to robocalls. We also need to go toe to toe on the technological front to develop powerful solutions to the problem.”

The contests:

  • Robocalls: Humanity Strikes Back: The FTC asks contestants 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. A qualifying phase launched March 5 and runs through June 15; and a second and final phase concludes at DEF CON 23 on Aug. 9, when five contestants are selected from the qualifying phase and move to a final round, competing for a top prize of $25,000. Up to two honorable mentions may be awarded $10,500, and each remaining finalist may also be eligible for $2,000 for a total of $50,000 in cash prizes.
  • DetectaRobo: The analytic contest will take place during the National Day of Civic Hacking, June 6, an annual global effort to unite citizens in collaborating with government to solve a variety of technical challenges. Participants will be given data from an existing honeypot and must develop an algorithm that identifies which calls are likely robocalls. Contestants will be encouraged to join a hackathon near them or participate in the FTC’s contest virtually.

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