July 1, 2020 — Every day, Americans are inundated with millions of robocalls. But the Verifying Integrity in End-to-End Signaling Working Group seeks to put an end to them.
The group of the GSM Association, which is chaired by network management company Iconectiv, aims to develop technologies that can identify and intercept internetwork signaling fraud — when nefarious actors route their calls through online programs that make their numbers appear local, increasing the likelihood that recipients will answer.
Such calls can come at great cost to the recipient. If they accept the call, the number is deemed active and can be distributed to other robocallers. In some cases, robocallers will call individuals, allow the phone to ring once, and then hang up, hoping that recipients will return the call and be subject to expensive calling fees.
Technology developed by Iconectiv and other members of the VINES Working Group would log callers known to commit such abuses and warn recipients that the caller is a known scammer before the call connects.
Chris Drake, chief technology officer at Iconectiv, says that the company’s innovations are doing “a lot to contribute to the end of robocalling.”
The majority of such calls come from places where “frankly, the various aspects of government enforcement look the other way,” Drake said.
He cited Caribbean countries, Somalia, and Eastern European countries such as Latvia and Russia as being particularly high abusers of robocall and rerouting technology.
However, methods of ending robocalls are not simply about stopping false calls but also verifying legitimate ones, Drake said.
Iconectiv’s platform verifies businesses that have the service by providing an alphanumeric code or other text that is irreplicable and proves that the call is coming from a legitimate source.
“The reason [we] use a cryptographic credential is the bad guy couldn’t come and claim that,” Drake said. “He’s been verified and get into the carrier’s channel because he doesn’t have the credentials cryptographically to present himself as Iconectiv.”
Drake said that Iconectiv and other members of the VINES Working Group have worked closely with the Federal Communications Commission to deter robocalls in earlier iterations of what eventually became the TRACED Act, but he said that there is still legislative red tape that he’d like to see cut, such as the right to revoke consent to legal calling lists.
A revoking consent capability, similar to those used for email mailing lists, would be useful “if you’ve ever tried to get off a list when someone calls, if you answered and you find out that’s some kind of pitch, or worse, you asked to get off the list and it feels like the next day you’re on ten more lists,” he said.
A provision for such a law was in earlier drafts of anti-robocalling legislation but failed to survive Congressional negotiations.
Drake also said that there should be legislation that requires the identification of companies participating in mass calling practices.
However, Drake said that attempting to stop robocalling in the United States is a difficult task.
“[They’re] very clever about trying to avoid being recognized for a pattern… they rotate numbers, all kind of tricks,” he said. “…Vines is looking at a way of testing that an actual call is happening from one network to another.”
FCC Requires Telecom Companies to Let Subscribers Text to Suicide Prevention Hotline
The measure would increase access for those seeking emergency mental health assistance.
WASHINGTON, November 18, 2021 – The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to require providers of telecommunications to permit individuals to text directly to a three digit number, 988, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
The suicide prevention lifeline is a national network that offers free and confidential support in Americans in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. The move increases access for individuals in crisis by routing text messages sent to 988 to the group’s 10-digit number, 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).
The vote to establish text-to-988 comes after Americans spent months isolated under stay-at-home orders in 2020. The CDC reported that last year, 44,834 individuals died by suicide in the United States. Experts have suggested that the pandemic has increased mental health struggles for Americans. The FCC has repeatedly recognized suicide’s impact on at-risk communities, including youth, the Black community, the LGBT community, Veterans, and the deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind, and people who have speech disabilities that affect communication.
The FCC required text providers to support three digit dialing and text messages to 988 by July 16, 2022. “This uniform deadline will help to prevent confusion and facilitate unified outreach campaigns,” said Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, who described 988 as “life-saving work.” “I am pleased to approve today’s decision because Text-to-988 will save lives in vulnerable and underserved communities by taking advantage of this vital communications channel,” he said.
Commenting on her vote to approve the measure, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel noted that LGBT youth are almost five times as likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. “These young people deserve a future,” she said. “They deserve support. And that support should be simple to access. Today we help make that possible.”
Americans sent an estimated 2.2 trillion text messages in 2020. Texting to 988 may be an especially important option for young people, who may prefer the anonymity and convenience of texting a crisis counselor instead of engaging in a phone conversation, said the FCC.
The agency urged Americans who need help during the transition to 988 should contact the Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK) and through online chats.
Facebook Lobbying Congress on Blockchain Policy
The registration comes after the company rebranded to Meta, taking it beyond its social media origins.
WASHINGTON, November 18, 2021 – Facebook has registered this month to lobby Congress on blockchain policy, following a rebranding of the company that is intended to take the company beyond its social media roots.
The lobby registration was filed on November 4 and it comes after the infrastructure bill, signed into law this week, established tax reporting requirements for cryptocurrencies, which require the decentralized transaction ledger known as the blockchain to function.
The registration, which does not provide specifics on what the company hopes to discuss, also comes just days after the company rebranded as Meta, which is intended to broaden the company’s scope into new technologies that allow people to be together in the virtual space.
When the rebranding launched in late October, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg wrote a letter that indicated that this new metaverse would require open standards and interoperability, including supporting crypto projects.
Meta also has a number of jobs that require knowledge of crypto and blockchain.
Facebook has set its sights on initiatives involving the blockchain for years. In 2018, head of Facebook Messenger David Marcus announced on Facebook that he would set up a small group to “best leverage Blockchain across Facebook, starting from scratch.”
On Thursday, a bipartisan group of House representatives introduced a bill – the Keep Innovation in America Act – that would better define who are crypto brokers for tax reporting purposes.
In a separate lobby registration, Facebook also specified that it would like to discuss specific funding for computer science education in legislation.
The company has previously registered to lobby Congress on Section 230, the law that shields tech platforms from legal repercussions for what their users post.
Blockchain Experts Debate Just How Much Internet Needs to Change
Congressional Internet Caucus panelists split over how prepared the internet is for changes from new technologies.
WASHINGTON, October 29, 2021 – Blockchain experts debated how prepared the internet is to meet the challenges of the modern world as new, so-called “Web 3.0” technologies continues to progress.
During a panel discussion on “Is The Past A Prologue To The Fight For Web3?” at a Congressional Internet Caucus Academy event on October 21, these experts said that the decentralized financial tools like blockchain are or will be an impetus for many new changes.
Blockchain provides decentralized recording of transactions across many computers for the records of the cryptocurrency bitcoin. Some say blockchain will change the way the internet runs and serve as the basis for Web 3.0, allowing better user security with regards to data tracking. To implement blockchain technology, more users and service providers will first need to show interest in the technology and an internet must be developed where computing is decentralized to individuals’ own consoles.
That bill includes tax reporting requirements for wallet developers and cryptocurrency miners that blockchain enthusiasts criticize as overly burdensome. There are different opinions about whether these provisions will be addressed via amendment, or included in the measure when it is ultimately teed up for passage by the House.
Panelists at the event reacted to this development by discussing whether proper groundwork is being laid to support future advancements in cryptocurrency.
Cleve Mesidor, founder of the National Policy Network of Women of Color in Blockchain, and Carlos Acevedo, senior director of sales at Brave Software, criticized the preparedness of current internet structures to handle new developments in cryptocurrency. Both emphasized access inequities present with internet structures which prevent certain demographics from accessing functional internet service, which in the case of blockchain computing presents itself as a learning curve for those at a knowledge deficit with regards to Web 3.0.
“Accessibility is something we should be talking about,” said Mesidor.
Kevin Werbach, professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and Andrew McLaughlin, president of Assembly OSM, gave slightly more credit to current in terms of their preparedness to handle cryptocurrency of the future while still acknowledging limitations. Werbach stated that it is important to realize that even with these limitations the internet has accomplished a lot, and even Web 3.0 would not be able to make current web systems completely decentralized and solve all issues at hand.
McLaughlin pointed out that most extreme moral panics concerning cryptocurrency are exaggerated, as dangerous activity such as sharing of child sex abuse imagery is not as widespread within cryptocurrency as it is made to seem.
The session was moderated by Danny O’Brien, senior fellow at the Filecoin Foundation for the Decentralized Web.
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