The FTC’s Innovative Contest to Deal With Annoying Commerical Robocallers — There’s a Cash Prize Involved!

by Brian Wolfman

Back in October, the Federal Trade Commission challenged the public

to create an innovative solution that will
block illegal commercial robocalls on landlines and mobile phones. As
part of its ongoing campaign against these illegal, prerecorded telemarketing calls, the agency … launch[ed] the FTC Robocall Challenge, and offer[ed] a $50,000 cash prize for the best technical solution.

I apologize if this is old news to some folks, but I'd never heard of it until today. And I don't remember any federal agency doing something like this: offering a cash prize to an innovator who wins a contest by coming up with what looks like the best solution to an intractable problem.

Yesterday, the FTC reported that it had received 744 eligible contest submissions before the January 17, 2013 contest deadline. Judging will begin next week and will look at the following criteria:

  • Does it work? (50 percent)
  • Is it easy to use? (25 percent)
  • Can it be rolled out? (25 percent)

The FTC has also published a "challenge submission gallery", which provides a brief description of each submission. Some of the submissions have cute names and logos. Check out "Buzz Kill."

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