back to article Google offers to leave robocallers hanging on the telephone

Fresh from fighting content filters in the EU, Google is working on the ultimate content filter– which seals the user off in a spam-free bubble. It's a nuisance caller detection feature built into Android, and it could have unintended consequences. The feature, spotted in recent commits to the Android Open Source Project (AOSP …

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WTF?

"If the AI detects that a machine is calling you and you don't want to speak to the machine ..."

Why on Earth would I need an app for that ?

If I get a call and a machine is on the other side, I'm not waiting for a "do you need help with that ?" popup, I'm cutting the call as fast as I can get to the bloody button (when the fuck are we ever going to regain the satisfaction of slamming a receiver down ?).

Can "The Future" (TM) please stop with the diapers and the nannying ?

God am I looking forward to retirement and sending this whole technological shit to the toilet where it belongs. Give me a fiber connection, a house in the mountains surrounded by a bear pit (fully stocked with bears, of course) and paintball Gatlings on the first-story walkway with LAN target acquisition and remote firing and I will be in Heaven before my time.

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Re: "If the AI detects that a machine is calling you and you don't want to speak to the machine ..."

"when the fuck are we ever going to regain the satisfaction of slamming a receiver down ?"

My current phone uses a variety of "gestures" to do certain things. Shake it sideways twice to turn the torch on or off, twist it a certain way to activate the camera app. I'm sure you could add one to hangup when you slam it down on a desk.

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Black Helicopters

Re: "If the AI detects that a machine is calling you and you don't want to speak to the machine ..."

"Can "The Future" (TM) please stop with the diapers and the nannying ?"

Can "The Future" (TM) please raise the IQ of the average human enough that we don't need all the nannying before they call us geeks with their problems? Otherwise, you're outvoted and are in for a rough ride.

"God am I looking forward to retirement and sending this whole technological shit to the toilet where it belongs."

And then the black helicopters start coming, immune to your bear pits AND paintball guns (and perhaps armed with REAL guns to boot).

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Devil

Re: "If the AI detects that a machine is calling you and you don't want to speak to the machine ..."

Fiber as in Metamucil ?

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Re: "If the AI detects that a machine is calling you and you don't want to speak to the machine ..."

Why do you need an app for that?

So that your phone can cut them off for you and you don't get distracted, just like my email server does for spam email about 65,000 times per day.

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Re: "If the AI detects that a machine is calling you and you don't want to speak to the machine ..."

I don't need an app to hang up for me. I need an app to chat with that nice but suspiciously strong accented fellow "John from Microsoft" about that pesky recurring virus that my computers always seem to get.

The evil side of me wants to compensate the said app more the longer they it can keep "John" engaged in conversation.

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Re: "If the AI detects that a machine is calling you and you don't want to speak to the machine ..."

Why on Earth would I need an app for that ?

If I get a call and a machine is on the other side, I'm not waiting for a "do you need help with that ?" popup, I'm cutting the call as fast as I can get to the bloody button ...

I had a 'have you been in an accident call' the other day and was convinced that it was a robot pre-screener that would have put me through to a human spammer if I had answered yes so I muttered an oath prior to hanging up. The caller responded, sounded slightly upset (not going to last long in that job I reckon) and I felt bad because I try not to be unpleasant to people* just because they are engaged in something irritating.

*obviously I don't always succeed in this

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Re: "If the AI detects that a machine is calling you and you don't want to speak to the machine ..."

"So that your phone can cut them off for you and you don't get distracted"

Except from the article:

"If the AI detects that a machine is calling you and you don't want to speak to the machine, the phone app could offer to hang up.

To allay fears, developers suggest the audio file and transcription will remain on the device."

It's not offering to filter out machine callers before you even know they've tried to call you, it's waiting for you to answer the call, then listen in and try to figure out if the voice on the other end is actually a machine, at which point it will pop up a notice asking if you want to press a button to end the call. Which, as the OP suggested, doesn't seem to add a whole lot over just pressing the "end call" button which is already there.

While cutting robocallers off before you know they're there sounds nice, I can't imagine any way for it to be physically possible. A call placed by a machine does not differ from any other call in any way. The only way it can ever be possible to know about it is to answer and see what happens. The only way an app on your phone could do what you suggest would be to have to answer every call for you and listen to see how confused the person on the other end gets. At which point their phone will detect that your phone is a machine and hang up on you before it gets a chance to do anything anyway.

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Trollface

Re: "If the AI detects that a machine is calling you and you don't want to speak to the machine ..."

Try the following response, in as sinister/weirdo voice as you can manage, and end it with an evil chuckle:

"Ah no, it wasn't an accident, it was quite deliberate. He was the last person to cold-call spam me but I got him back..."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "If the AI detects that a machine is calling you and you don't want to speak to the machine ..."

Surely I'm not the only one who has done this... +1 646 506 9913

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Re: "If the AI detects that a machine is calling you and you don't want to speak to the machine ..."

Ok, new idea.

First a countdown*.

5..4..3..2..1

Then a tone of about 15KHz* at maximum intensity gets blasted down the line

*Gotta have something to avoid false positives.

* We could go higher but we wouldn't want them to miss out if their hearing was down for some unknown reason.

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Re: "If the AI detects that a machine is calling you and you don't want to speak to the machine ..."

Old farts like me might not hear 15 KHz or higher.

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Unhappy

Re: "If the AI detects that a machine is calling you and you don't want to speak to the machine ..."

I don't get to play with them any more. They seem to hang up before I can even draw breath to start my story of woe.

Good responses I'gve used over the years to "I believe you've been in an accident?"-

Which one?

It was terrible, I died

Yes, just now how did you know? Can you deal with the bodies?

An various convoluted stories involving mass death and national level responses.

But as I say they still call but don't want to talk.

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Re: "If the AI detects that a machine is calling you and you don't want to speak to the machine ..."

The capability already exists

Introduce them to Lenny: 2233435945@sip2sip.info

He's happy to talk to them

You should be able to listen in as well.

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Easier solution:

Whitelist by default.

If I don't have your number plugged into my phone as a contact, your phone call doesn't ring, or get answered.

If you're persistent then I might bother to Google you.

The magic keys to the kingdom of speech with me? Use a well-known number that I can search for online, inform me of your number/call in advance, or send me a text (if you're a human) to let me know who you are and why you're contacting me.

Otherwise, enjoy the glorious brrr-ing-brr-ing into perpetuity without even a possibility of leaving a voicemail.

P.S. My ringtone for real people is the sound of the phone ringing from the ZX Spectrum game Software House. True story.

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"My ringtone for real people is the sound of the phone ringing from the ZX Spectrum game Software House."

My ring tone is the sound of an office full of different old style phones ringing.

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Anonymous Coward

"If I don't have your number plugged into my phone as a contact, your phone call doesn't ring, or get answered."

My local council offices and the hospital all use a CLI of "withheld". No doubt the latter at least is intended as giving the recipient some call history privacy in personal matters.

Most of the cold calls I get are a CLI of "International". There's no way to differentiate those from international friends' calls on the given information.

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Welcome to the future....

An AI bot built into Android that identifies robocallers intercepts the call and answers on your behalf in the background, stringing the calling bot along with a series of non-confirmations of anything, non-sequiturs and inanities punctuated by profanities before hanging up.

Let the bots chat to each other in the background and leave the human channel free

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Whitelist by default.

Yes to this - a thousand times yes to this.

I already do this manually - If a number appears and it's not in my on-device phone book then straight to voicemail it goes - but it would be nice if the phone just did that for me automatically.

99% of the calls I get on my phone now are voice spam - mostly it's someone trying to sell me health insurance (because, you know, that's the sort of thing you buy from some random weirdo that cold-calls you) and vaguely threatening messages in Mandarin.

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Ringtone

Mine is the 25 second instrumental of CAKE's magnificent "Never There" and I've changed my voicemail delay to match it... so that the ring dies with off with the rattle of the vibraslap.

Little things...

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I've never seen an "international" cli. I often see actual foreign numbers. I few months ago, I was getting a load of spam calls from numbers in Guinea.

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International calls? I get CLI all the time. I know because a lot of them like to use tricksy ones that LOOK like local calls but aren't (0027, etc.). I have one on my phone history today, if you'd like to see.

Unless, and this is important, it's spam. Then no CLI, international or not. But it's never answered.

I don't care that the local council use withheld numbers etc. That's their problem. They are one very, very specific example of exactly a place that SHOULD be pushing CLI properly with an official council number to call them back on clearly visible.

If you have to HIDE WHO'S CALLING then I don't want to take that call. Legit or not. Actual client/supplier/service or not. Known to me or not. Simple as that.

Yes, you can fake CLI (but it should be impossible, BT just need to pull their finger out). But every workplace I ever worked for has never felt the need to hide their number. All they do do is not advertise their internal DDI's and make the CLI of all calls go out with the main public switchboard DDI. There's no reason to be doing anything else, unless you're intending to deceive people about the origin of the call.

Those kinds of people won't want to answer the phone anyway, so no loss to just advertise the number at least for the first few calls anyway.

Plus, sorry, but nothing binding is done by me over a telephone call. You will email or write if you need it. And absolute best case: I'll call you back on your advertised number to ensure I'm actually speaking to who I think I am, and deal direct and still ask you for whatever-it-is in writing. You could request that via an SMS, if you wanted.

There is zero NEED for CLI. It's not even convenient as it can be easily faked or blocked. Hence it's about as reliable as a From: header in an email, and I trust it just as little. Because of that, I disregard them entirely and work on the much simpler principle of "I didn't give you my number, therefore I never wanted to hear from you."

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Won't work here: a couple of people I know, including my girlfriend, have no caller ID for good reason.

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Re: If you have to HIDE WHO'S CALLING...

There is a problem here with Business Centres, which I have first-hand experience of.

A Business Centre might have 100 companies using the same telephone "pipe". If CLI is active then only the main number is advertised and the manager of the Business Centre then has the headache of dealing with all "missed your call" return calls as a result of tenants making failed outgoing calls. The boss's initial reaction was to de-activate CLI.

The solution to that is to use DDI information to display on CLI. The problem there is that there is less "regulatory-level" control over DDI number display on CLI than there is to number assigned to the overall "pipe", which means it is open to abuse.

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"

If I don't have your number plugged into my phone as a contact, your phone call doesn't ring, or get answered.

"

All very well if you are 100% certain that you will *never* want to speak to anyone you don't know. Mother rushed to hospital? You'll never know because you won't get the call. Wife had a car accident and her phone got lost/broken in the accident? You'll be blissfully unaware. Delivery driver cannot find your address so is calling you for directions from his mobile? You'll find out in a few days when you call to find out what's happened to it.

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The magic keys to the kingdom of speech with me? .......... inform me of your number/call in advance, or send me a text (if you're a human) to let me know who you are and why you're contacting me.

That's a security through obscurity approach. If enough people do it, the robot dialler scripts will be preceded by the same robot texters that have been spamming you for years about PPI and the accident that wasn't your fault.

TXT: Reply STOP to 841089 or we will treat this as a GDPR opt-in consent to call you about the government's boiler and solar PV scheme!

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Most of the cold calls I get are a CLI of "International".

The other week I got an "International" call. It turned out not to be Indian. It was my gas fitter who was on holiday returning my call to his mobile. I suppose Ibiza was respite from the temperature here.

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I don't use a ringtone at all. Instead, my watch vibrates on incoming calls.

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That's what voicemail is for. If I get a call from a number I don't know, it goes to voicemail. Then I can check the voicemail to see if I need to return the call, or if that number gets blacklisted.

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a couple of people I know, including my girlfriend, have no caller ID for good reason.

I'm curious; what's the good reason? Why would you call someone if you're not willing to let them know who you are?

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I'm curious; what's the good reason? Why would you call someone if you're not willing to let them know who you are?

I have a couple of friends who are ex-directory. For some this is because they have a prominent position, lawyers, doctors, etc., and don't want their private phone number to be publicly available. Some women also go ex-directory after receiving nuisance calls, no, not those of the PPI kind. With my girlfriend it's down to the exchange or the network as she never requested it; we just know that the wiring in the house is pretty damn old.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Welcome to the future....

I do this and record the calls - just to confirm it is working. I've embedded a DTMF 1 in the answer script. I routinely have calls run on for minutes.

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Re: If you have to HIDE WHO'S CALLING...

"The solution to that is to use DDI information to display on CLI. The problem there is that there is less "regulatory-level" control over DDI number display on CLI than there is to number assigned to the overall "pipe", which means it is open to abuse."

What is the DDI when a call originates outside the phone network, such as using VoIP? Or from a country not as strict with DDI usage?

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Re: Welcome to the future....

I keep thinking doing something that will backfire someday by having the call script assume a press of 1 is agreeing to something like being billed and they already know enough about you to start billing you out of that. And since it's responding to something on YOUR end, it could be construed as explicit consent, raising the bar.

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Orv
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Where I live "reverse 911" systems are often used to call everyone in a particular area to inform them about emergency evacuations. (In California during fire season, it's pretty much guaranteed that this will happen *somewhere*.) I worry about systems like this blocking those calls. They also use SMS, but SMS is not a reliable service.

EAS (Emergency Alert System) is the obvious solution, but after last years' experience they've cut back on using it because it's far too blunt an instrument; EAS alerts generally cover a whole county, which here means people 30 miles away from the threat were getting woken up in the middle of the night. This was resulting in a lot of people turning alerts off entirely.

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Happy

Whitelist by default

@User McUser

I use Extreme Call Blocker to accomplish this. Callers not in my phone's contacts are allowed to leave a voicemail, but my phone does not ring. Only those in my phone's contacts can call me and have it ring. It takes about 2-3 seconds of listening to a voicemail to identify it as being something you might care about or just crap to be deleted, not to mention you can listen to those voicemails later when you have time. Not being interrupted by crap calls all the time is BLISS. I can't do this with my landline, so I just turned the ringers off and use it for outgoing calls only.

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and you don't want to speak to the machine, the phone app could offer to hang up.

Nooooooo PLEASE. Pretty PLEASE. One useful use for AI - to make a market droid run circles and clock some air minutes. Anything but hang up. Configurable torture scripts and Elisa dialogue. Please. Pretty please.

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Where's Tay when you need her?

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Devil

I have an algorithm for this

1) The phone rings. I pick it up. Silence on the other side (caller bot). -> Blacklist

2) The phone rings. No Id. -> The phone doesn't ring. I disabled calls without ID.

3) The phone rings. I pick it up. You try to sell me something. -> Blacklist.

4) The phone rings. I pick it up. Telemarketing. -> Black list.

5) The phone rings. I pick it up. I don't like you. -> Blacklist.

Yes, the blacklist is getting quite fat, thanks for asking.

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Re: I have an algorithm for this

"Yes, the blacklist is getting quite fat, thanks for asking."

I'm gonna need a new phone, I filled up my blacklist.

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Re: I have an algorithm for this

That's not a blacklist, that's a shitlist

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aks

Re: I have an algorithm for this

So does that make it a brownlist?

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Re: I have an algorithm for this

It's going to keep getting bigger as the spam callers all seem to us spoofed numbers for the caller ID. A curse on the telcos for permitting spoofing.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I have an algorithm for this

I "spoof" CID when I use my system as a relay in order to display my actual number, or otherwise to legitimately inform the called party accurately of my identity.

On spoofing, some tele-spammers calling me have taken to setting CID to the NPA-NXX (first six digits, aka area code and exchange in US) of my own cell phone # in order to appear like local calls. These are categorically blacklisted because my cell # is not indicative of my locality.

Cat and mouse.

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Re: I have an algorithm for this

I'm waiting to see if the spammers start using CID numbers of people that ACTUALLY ARE on my contact list, making them impossible to screen.

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Google is up to something....

They've developed their own robo-caller and now an app to block them. Is this a sneaky way for them to corner the market on robo-calls? Market domination to get a piece of the action perhaps?

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Unhappy

Re: Google is up to something....

*sigh*

When I was young and stupid, I thought that inventing things that people wanted would make them happy and thank me.

I am older now. It turns out everything can be wielded as a weapon to hurt someone. Often the inventor.

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Re: Google is up to something....

"They've developed their own robo-caller and now an app to block them. Is this a sneaky way for them to corner the market on robo-calls? Market domination to get a piece of the action perhaps?"

Do no evil.

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Several approaches

I have only a landline - I live so far out in the sticks cel coverage is poor, and I pretty much stay on my nature preserve anyway.

The huge fraction of robot calls wait for you to make a noise - it need not be hello, a fart will do, then there's a long pause usually and the salesperson will ask "am I speaking to $your name?".

If I haven't just hung up during that pause, which never happens with a real person...I have a number of things I will do depending on my mood. One is to immediately point out to the human that finally connects that not once in a long life has a machine-initiated (robot) call been for *my* benefit. Something along the lines of "how do you feel about that, click" usually happens then.

But wait, there's more! If I'm feeling more adventurous, I can often social engineer the person (females are easier) into telling me a name (if not an Indian...they are hip to this one), a place, and so on. I then point out that I now have enough info to turn their boss in for the felony they just committed as I'm on the do not call list. That will often stop them.

Then there are the Tom Mabe or the Henry Rollin's approaches - pretend to be the cop at a murder scene, or just an aggressively gay sex line (which these days probably doesn't work as well, but Henry makes it funny).

Mabe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6a-CZMrVAg

Rollins: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZ_y2cndiow

(don't play this loud over speakers at work - f bombs etc video is clean otherwise).

Then there's that outfit that uses some kind of annoying tape recordings to fool the callers, and sets you up to easily redirect to them - which I didn't find on a quick search because pranking or otherwise fooling with these robot callers is now quite "a thing".

OK, I usually don't have time, and they call at ideal times to be an interruption...but when I do, why not just have a little fun?

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Re: Several approaches

I used to just hang up. Boring.

I used to try to be helpful. "WHICH collision that was not my fault? I've had quite a few.... people just crash into me all the time, it's weird."

My latest approach is: "What are you wearing?" Female callers hang up pretty quickly to that one if you say it the right way. Male callers sometimes take a little more, ah, prodding before they realise what you're getting at. Chuckles aplenty.

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