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5 min read

To “Restore Faith in Caller ID,” Call Blocking & Labeling Analytics Need Help. Let’s Do Better.

Numeracle’s Response to the FCC’s Request for Comment on Advanced Methods to Target and Eliminate Unlawful Robocalls
Written by
Molly Weis, VP of Marketing & Communications
Published on
August 11, 2023

On August 9th, 2023, Numeracle filed comments in response to the FCC’s Seventh Report and Order, Eighth Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, and Third Notice of Inquiry in the matter of ‘Advanced Methods to Target and Eliminate Unlawful Robocalls.’

Read the Proposed Rule

With this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FCC seeks to address and solicit feedback on a number of actions aimed at protecting consumers from illegal calls, restoring faith in caller ID, and holding voice service providers responsible for the calls on their networks. Specifically, the FCC requested comment on several options to combat illegal calls, including specific call blocking requirements, the correct way to notify callers when calls are blocked based on reasonable analytics, requiring the display of caller name information in certain instances, effective measures to prevent new or renewing customers from originating illegal calls, and more. Additionally, the Notice of Inquiry sought broad comment on the status and use of call labeling. One of our favorite subjects!

The full text of our comments can be accessed here, but we’ll summarize the main points we presented to the FCC in our response on recommendations on how we can do more to protect American citizens from illegal robocalls while empowering legal callers with tools to deliver their identities directly to their called parties.

“We’ve created a problem; now pay us to solve it:” the problem with unregulated call labeling analytics engines.

In our comments, we first drew attention to the problematic nature of focusing too much energy on more widely deploying call labeling analytics to fix a problem with lack of trust in phone calls that call labeling has perpetuated. What's the motivation to actually solve call blocking and labeling when it is a source of recurring revenue? We're putting too much responsibility on the analytics enginges (AEs) who clearly struggle to minimize collateral damage in their primary effort to stem the tide of illegal robocalls.

As stated in our comments, “The FCC should not allow the AEs to insert themselves into the call flow, regardless of whether the call originator or recipient wants them there, and give the AEs carte blanche to make errors and then charge to fix those errors.”

While we lament that the analytics took on a very difficult role in this equation, suggesting that algorithms alone could catch every bad guy without erroneously blocking or labeling a single legitimate call continues to remain an unrealistic aspiration. Numeracle has offered to provide Verified Identity data to help the analytics with an additional vetted source by which to identify good actors apart from the bad. Still, the analytics haven’t taken us up on it.

What has caused the FCC to change its previously strong position that carriers may not “restrict traffic in any way?”

We’ve gone from an industry where carriers have a duty to deliver calls with 99.999% accuracy to an industry that favors overzealous blocking and labeling without consequence to the blocker.

As reflected upon in our comments, “[N]ow, the Commission has authorized unregulated entities to block and label calls based on hunches, guesses, and assumptions without a concrete mechanism for those making legal calls to ensure that those calls complete without a defamatory spam label that the AEs themselves admit harms call completion rates.”

This is a radical change from the position held by the FCC the better part of the last 100 years. Now, in this 8th FNPR and 3rd Notice of Inquiry, where the Commission seeks comments on expanding mandatory blocking requirements, we see the position skewed even further toward restricting call delivery vs. empowering it.  

Where we’ve been disappointed by the technologies put into place thus far to address Advanced Methods to Target and Eliminate Unlawful Robocalls, why deploy the same technologies that have fallen short and blocked and labeled legal and critical calls along the way, now on an even broader scale?

Our recommendation: push Verified Identity directly to call recipients without relying on intermediaries.

If the FCC wants to preserve the viability of the voice channel, it should recommend delivering the Verified Identity of the calling party directly to the called party without interference from intermediaries influencing the delivery. This removes the subjectivity and the power to interfere, and puts the choice ‘to answer or not’ solely in the hands of the call recipient. Our recommended course for achieving this goal? Rich Call Data (RCD); the adoption of which, as an adjunct to STIR/SHAKEN, allows for the secure transmission of identifying information from the caller straight to the recipient’s device.

While CNAM has been suggested in the FCC’s proposed rulemaking as a methodology to display the identity of the call originator to the call recipient, there are no vetting bodies in place to review what’s submitted for CNAM. Cost-conscious service providers may choose one of multipe competing CNAM providers so the display on consumer devices can be inconsistent, including incorrect or misleading information, without any moderated Know your Customer (KYC) processes in place.  

“This runs contrary to both the Commission’s and consumers’ expectations in having improved calling party information and an industry alignment to mitigate spoofing and improve consumer trust.” - Numeracle’s FCC Comments

What’s more incentivizing than a ‘pay to play’ marketplace? How about an end-to-end trust ecosystem? In our comments, we recommend creating a trusted feedback loop to encourage a path for legal callers to identify themselves for the purpose of avoiding erroneous blocking. In return for undergoing additional levels of identity vetting, AEs should provide notification of blocking and labeling to those willing to satisfy the additional vetting requirements. If a thorough KYC process is satisfied by a call originator, and the identity embedded for delivery as suggested via RCD, the AEs should be required to notify these trusted call originators when they’ve been labeled or blocked by their algorithms. Not only does this incentivize legal callers to identify themselves to aid in the accuracy of call delivery, but it also gives enforcement authorities a direct path back to the call originator should a verified entity engage in illegal activity.

“Callers willing to undergo rigorous KYC vetting whose calls are signed with STIR/SHAKEN and who embed their identity in the call signaling should be informed if their calls are labeled. And if a caller using this technology violates the law, the information embedded in the call signaling will lead enforcement agencies straight to their door to stop it.” - Numeracle’s FCC Comments

Put more energy towards elevating verified calling identities, and less eggs in the basket of call blocking and labeling analytics.

It’s time the FCC and the industry submit defeat on waiting for call blocking and labeling analytics to be the only solution, without pitching in to help with additional tools. Analytics aren't going away and they're an important backstop to protect consumers when other illegal robocall mitigation techniques fail. Still, before we risk doing even more damage by deploying these analytics on a wider scale, the Commission should decline to require additional carriers to block calls on the basis of reasonable analytics alone, and recommend practices to focus on positively identifying good actors (via KYC + RCD).

As the Commission and the industry continue on in a cycle of proposed rulemaking and commenting, one might reflect that we seem to be in agreement that there must be a better way. And Numeracle’s here to lead it.  

To learn more about Numeracle’s robust KYC entity vetting and verification processes, and how to deploy these processes to mitigate fraud while elevating legal entities within your own organizations, visit:

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