October of 2018 was an unremarkable month. That is, to everyone who wasn't working for Youmail. During that month, the California-based company which provides voicemail and call blocking technology, noticed something special: On average, 164 million robocalls were being placed every single day around America. That's nearly 7 million per hour, and nearly 2,000 per second, for a grand monthly total of over 5.1 billion. It was a new national record!
Unfortunately for Americans, the previous month's record of just over four billion robocalls was not one anyone wished to see broken. But broken it was and with this new record came a wave of unprecedented pressure on Congress and the FCC to act.
On March 23, 2019 they did. The TRACED Act; tough new legislation against illegal robocallers sailed through the Senate 99 to 1. Simultaneously, powerful, technological tools known as STIR / SHAKEN began rolling out allowing telecom companies to authenticate incoming calls from questionable numbers more effectively.
Had the problem finally been solved? All eyes turned once again to the Youmail robocall index for an answer. During March of 2019, the very same month that the TRACED Act passed, Youmail reported that 5.2 billion robocalls had been made. A brand new national record!
This hour we speak with technology and telecom industry experts about the national epidemic of robocalls. Can anything be done to finally stop (or even manage) the menace?
- Jim Tyrrell - Senior Director of Product Marketing for Transaction Network Services
- Lily Newman - Staff writer for Wired focusing on information security, digital privacy, and hacking
- Alex W. Palmer - Freelance writer and contributor to several publications including Wired, GQ, The New York Times Magazine, Smithsonian, and others
- Tarun Wadhwa- Writer, academic, and entrepreneur focusing on technology, innovation, security and public policy; currently a Visiting Instructor at Carnegie Mellon University and author of the upcoming book Identified: The Digital Transformation of Who We Are
Colin McEnroe, Jonathan McNicol, and Betsy Kaplan contributed to this show.