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 …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    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.

    1. onefang Silver badge

      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.

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge
      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).

    3. Ima Ballsy
      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 ?

    4. katrinab Silver badge

      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.

      1. Cuddles Silver badge

        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.

    5. Adam 1 Silver badge

      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.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        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

      2. Adam 1 Silver badge

        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.

        1. onefang Silver badge

          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.

      3. julian.smith

        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.

    6. 's water music Silver badge

      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

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        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..."

        1. 0laf Silver badge
          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.

  2. Lee D Silver badge

    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.

    1. onefang Silver badge

      "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.

      1. John H Woods Silver badge

        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...

      2. JohnFen Silver badge

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

    2. Anonymous Coward
      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.

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        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.

        1. Lee D Silver badge

          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."

          1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

            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.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              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?

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        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.

    3. jmch Silver badge

      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

      1. Anonymous Coward
        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.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          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.

    4. User McUser

      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.

      1. ma1010 Silver badge
        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.

    5. Charlie Clark Silver badge

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

      1. ratfox Silver badge

        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?

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          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.

    6. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      "

      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.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        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.

      2. Orv Silver badge

        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.

    7. Ledswinger Silver badge

      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!

  3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    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.

    1. Adam 1 Silver badge

      Where's Tay when you need her?

  4. Marcelo Rodrigues
    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.

  5. Mark 85 Silver badge

    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?

    1. onefang Silver badge

      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.

      1. MiguelC Silver badge

        Re: I have an algorithm for this

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

        1. aks Bronze badge

          Re: I have an algorithm for this

          So does that make it a brownlist?

    2. Daggerchild Silver badge
      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.

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge

      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.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        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.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          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.

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      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.

  6. DCFusor Silver badge

    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?

    1. SonofRojBlake

      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.

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: Several approaches

        Ask them the date of the alleged accident. That trips them up.

        1. Handel was a crank

          Re: Several approaches

          I’ve recently cottoned on to the fact that all the “we’re calling about your accident” calls I get are automated, so I have a little fun now. Admittedly you do get some funny looks in the office when you are overheard saying something like “would that be the one involving a cheese grater and my lacerated penis”.

          Well, it’s something to do, innit.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Several approaches

            After learning the other side often tries to record your voice in order to fabricate some kind of "yes" out of it, I find it better to just pick up and hang up. If the call is a known spammer, my NCID program pretends the number is disconnected.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 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.

      That's about our situation here, no cell signal. And not really in "the sticks" per se (living in N.VT in the mid-late 70's, *THAT* was the sticks). There's an actor living up the road from me who has done commercials for *two* different cell companies, and I'm not sure he even has a cell signal at *his* house.

  7. JohnFen Silver badge

    Who does that now?

    "who would ever accept a call from an unknown caller again?"

    Who accepts calls from unknown callers right now? I just figured that most people do what I do: if you're calling me and you aren't in my contact list, then you get voicemail.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Who does that now?

      Then your voicemail gets filled up as some systems expect this and start going on and on and on...

  8. Crisp Silver badge

    Unknown callers currently go to /dev/null

    All this does is automate the process.

  9. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
    FAIL

    Have a bad day!

    If I get a scam call from India I ask them if their parents know that they're a criminal. They don't like it and I hope that I may have ruined their day.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Have a bad day!

      And if they answer, "Why yes, who do you think referred me to this job?"

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Have a bad day!

      "They don't like it and I hope that I may have ruined their day."

      One Indian cold caller said I had ruined her day by accusing her of being a scam. Afterwards it occurred to me it might have been BT following up their weekly mail shots trying to get me to move to their broadband.

      Actually I was considering their apparently cheaper phone plan that was otherwise identical to my current BT one. The thought of having to try to have an exploratory conversation with their call centre puts me off the idea completely.

  10. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Nice but

    My approach is to use a whitelist type approach. Any random call not from a number or identified as someone I would talk to, etc. goes automatically to VM. The only exception is when I am expecting a 'random' number from someone like the pizza delivery driver to possibly call where I am not likely to know the actual phone number.

  11. Tom 35 Silver badge

    The latest thing I'm getting

    Robo calls in Chinese, I recorded one and got a friend to listen and it's a tax scam. The calling number is spoofed, very local and different every time. A black list is not going to work on that and they have been calling 2-3 times a week. I would be happy to have google kill that.

    1. stiine

      Re: The latest thing I'm getting

      If you are getting calls from the same area code and exchange (the first 6 digits of a u.s. number), and you're like me a don't know any of those 998 people, don't answer it unless you're going to fuck with them. In my area, all of the local government offices have numbers from one of two exchanges (as they're all using county provided phone systems)

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: The latest thing I'm getting

        In the US, the caller ID number means nothing, as it's trivially easy to spoof.

      2. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: The latest thing I'm getting

        And if the scammers start USING the government numbers (as in ACTUAL government numbers)? Not like the government can actually go after them since they're protected by hostile sovereignty.

  12. Doctor Evil
    Pint

    Kudos to the headline writer(s)

    +1 for the Blondie lyric -- from one of their best. Have one on me (could even be a blonde).

  13. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Duping Duplex

    What I want is for my phone's AI to talk to Google's AI (or anybody else's AI, robocaller or phone-script operator) and to not bother me.

    Then later, my AI can inform me if there was anything of importance or interest.

    Both sides would be happy. The tele-botherer would think it had made a sales call. I would be completely oblivious to it except for the tiny number that would be to my benefit.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Duping Duplex

      "I would be completely oblivious to it except for the tiny number that would be to my benefit."

      Any take-up - no matter how tiny - just encourages them to persist with the strategy of cold calling everyone. If I get a company name - it goes on my blacklist of those with whom I will not do business.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Duping Duplex

        And if it's the ONLY source of something (or if ALL of them get blacklisted), you just do it yourself from now own?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Duping Duplex

          "And if it's the ONLY source of something [...]"

          If they have a monopoly on some absolute necessity then they have no need to cold call anyone.

          If they are reputable competing suppliers of a necessity then they usually have someone responsible for keeping their marketing on the right side of legal.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Duping Duplex

            "If they have a monopoly on some absolute necessity then they have no need to cold call anyone."

            Sure they do. Some don't know you exist, so you keep calling them. After all, they've got you in Walking on the Sun territory now, especially if it's something you really can't go without. Trust me, I see this all the time, if not with monopolies then with oligopolies, as I get hammered by spam from Verizon (the ONLY other terrestrial Internet provider in town) to switch from my current provider.

  14. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Google Bombing

    Surely a modern form of google bombing would be possible.

    How many entries on websites would cause Google to evaluate or re-evaluate the owner of a particular number?

    How long before an error or change is acted upon? Let's say I buy a telephone number that happens to have a history of usage, for example. Will Google make that usage available to me so that I can get the phone company to change the number before committing it for marketing purposes? I suppose GDPR in theory should resolve such things, but with considerable delay.

  15. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    The detail is in the implementation

    The platform is identifying who gets through to the user…

    Blocking calls without an ID is easy enough. But I think this is designed to foil robo-callers that call you first and connect the sales droid only when you pick up, ie. it will identify the time spent switching the line.

    I think this is pretty clever if combined with calls without an ID.

  16. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Figures . . .

    . . . that AO would twist this feature into something sinister on the part of Google. I mean, I'm divesting myself from Google services as quickly as I can, but I also can basically never answer my phone at this point because incoming calls are almost guaranteed to be spammers and scammers. The right thing to do is choke off the callers at the source in some fashion but, failing that, having some kind of logic at the endpoint seems like the best we can do, and if Google is making it easier, GOOD FOR THEM!

  17. JohnFen Silver badge

    Nope

    I don't need Google to have even more information about me than they already have -- even if that information is which phone spammers are spamming me.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nope

      "[...] even if that information is which phone spammers are spamming me."

      Spam is invariably random - even if your number originally came from a source with whom you once did business. The robo-calls often give a "remove from our list" option - but they still keep ringing every few days.

      Google would probably find such spam call history just "noise" that messes up what they do know about you.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Nope

        That's probably true, but I consider it meaningless. I want Google (and Facebook, and Microsoft, and all the other spying bastards) to have as close to no information related to me as possible.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Nope

          Then cut off all ties to society and go to the mountains. Otherwise, they can glean quite enough already just by accessing publicly-available records.

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: Nope

            Of course they can. But that's also irrelevant. I don't expect to be able to actually become invisible to the likes of them, but that doesn't mean I should actively help them engage in those activities.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Nope

          "I want Google (and Facebook, and Microsoft, and all the other spying bastards) to have as close to no information related to me as possible."

          The best place to hide a tree is in a forest ...or a needle in a haystack.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Nope

            Actually, the best place to hide a needle is amongst other needles, especially if like most needles it reacts to magnets.

          2. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: Nope

            It's not a question of hiding, exactly. If I wanted to actually hide, I could. It's a matter of defending, as best as I can, my right to defend myself from unwanted intrusion.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: Nope

              But in any society, you have to put up with some noise. It's not like you can prevent the Jehova's Witnesses from coming to your door every so often (they can protest on First Amendment grounds just like you). And there are plenty of other scenarios where you have to put up with stuff you don't necessarily like because the other side is entitled to a chance just like you.

              1. onefang Silver badge

                Re: Nope

                "they can protest on First Amendment grounds just like you"

                Only in USA, the rest of the world may or may not have free speech, but if they have something called "First Amendment" it's likely to be a different thing to the USA one.

              2. JohnFen Silver badge

                Re: Nope

                I'm not talking about "noise". I'm talking about surveillance.

                1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                  Re: Nope

                  You have neighbors. I count surveillance as part of the "noise": as in the stuff we don't like but have to put up with as members of society. Nosy neighbors, prosyletization, junk mail, bullhorning, billboards, you name it. We put up with a lot of stuff everyday in life. The Internet is no different, if you want to belong.

                  1. JohnFen Silver badge

                    Re: Nope

                    "I count surveillance as part of the "noise""

                    Fair enough. I don't. I consider it an intrusion, bordering on an assault. It's very different than noisy neighbors, in that noisy neighbors are merely a nuisance.

                    "We put up with a lot of stuff everyday in life."

                    There are many facts of life that we don't put up with, so we fight whenever possible. For me, being spied on is one of those things.

                    " The Internet is no different, if you want to belong."

                    We were talking about cell phones, not the internet, but this comment confuses me. What do you mean by "belong"? The internet is a communications medium, not a club.

                    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                      Re: Nope

                      "Fair enough. I don't. I consider it an intrusion, bordering on an assault. It's very different than noisy neighbors, in that noisy neighbors are merely a nuisance."

                      NOT noisy, NOSY. Like Peepin' Tom nosy, for starters.

                      "There are many facts of life that we don't put up with, so we fight whenever possible. For me, being spied on is one of those things."

                      Do you work in a place with a surveillance camera? You're being spied on, full stop, and you sign away your right to protest on private property when you signed onto the job, too. Trust me, I've seen the contracts, and it's been on the news. Just about every business of note has a camera for their own protection, and there's little to be done if you don't want to be cammed. Because insurance plays a factor in their use, good luck trying to find a useful place that doesn't use them.

                      "We were talking about cell phones, not the internet, but this comment confuses me. What do you mean by "belong"? The internet is a communications medium, not a club."

                      It's more than a communications medium now Social media is part of the Internet, and guess what? It's a club, essentially, with over a billion willing members. In many parts, it's either be on Facebook or you might as well be walking on the Sun.

                      1. JohnFen Silver badge

                        Re: Nope

                        "NOT noisy, NOSY. Like Peepin' Tom nosy, for starters."

                        Ahh, my mistake.

                        "Do you work in a place with a surveillance camera?"

                        Not currently, but I have. And you're right -- that's being surveilled. I don't call that being "spied on", though, because I both know it's happening and have agreed to it. It's the surveillance that I don't know about and/or don't agree to that I take serious exception to.

                        "It's more than a communications medium now Social media is part of the Internet, and guess what?"

                        No, it's not. Social media is, as you point out -- but "social media" is a set of high-level services that happen to use the internet as their communications medium. The internet itself is not social media.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Piss the scammers off at your own peril

    I pissed one off once.

    He said he would keep calling all evening and night.

    After the 4th call I unplugged the phone line.

    The best tactic may be to waste their time by acting dumb.

    "What, this isn't the CIA ringing about the bodies buried under my porch?"

    "But you got me bang to rights Copper"

    1. onefang Silver badge

      Re: Piss the scammers off at your own peril

      That could back fire if the scammer decides to do the "right" thing, and anonymously inform the authorities about the bodies buried under your porch. Sure there may not be any bodies, but they'll have to dig up your porch to find out. Or even worse, there are bodies, you had nothing to do with them, but the scammer handed over a recording of you confessing.

  19. AK565

    One thing I liked about Blackberry: It allowed one to block all calls unless the number was on one's contact list.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      On Android, I use Tasker to accomplish the same thing.

  20. Richard Cranium

    Remember the olden days...

    On my wired home phone line (remember those) incoming calls go to answerphone after a couple of rings, it's a speakerphone so I can hear too. If I'm close I can see CLI and pick up for known numbers otherwise I can interrupt the answerphone if appropriate. The cold-callers usually try a few times, maybe over a couple of weeks, but must then realise they're not going to get an answer and put the number on THEIR "do not call" list (I am of course on the UKs TPS do not call list but I suspect some of them use that as a "prospects" list).

    Government COULD put a stop to the abuse but since when did those ****ers give a damn about us? (Worth voting Brexit just to see them running around like headless chickens!).

    No effective action was taken about TPS abuse reports for the first decade or more of it's availability. Now they have finally started to impose fines the scam callers turn out to have no assets so just liquidate to side-step the fine and start up a new company and keep going.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Remember the olden days...

      Around my neck of the woods, they're worse. If they realize they've hit an answering machine or voicemail, they exploit it by going into a long pitch, eating up the available space.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Remember the olden days...

        " If they realize they've hit an answering machine or voicemail, they exploit it by going into a long pitch, eating up the available space."

        Possibly a human caller passes off that as a long call with a prospective customer. No chance of verbal abuse - or being cut off. So they are scamming their own employer.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Remember the olden days...

          No, it's a recording because it doesn't stop or expect a reply. It's just a long, drawn-out ad on your answering machine, forcing you to act upon it before you run out of space and miss important messages.

          It's times like this that I wish there was an answering machine that saved messages to SD card, but the only one I found was in China, and it wasn't cheap.

      2. Fluffy Cactus

        Re: Remember the olden days...

        That you can easily counteract by picking up and hanging up in a second.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Remember the olden days...

          "That you can easily counteract by picking up and hanging up in a second."

          Not if you're too far from the phone. AND they call BACK. Read the one above about the cold caller who retaliated.

          Plus it's getting harder to screen the calls when they're starting to impersonate neighbors and government officials, especially ones with whom I regularly interact so expect callbacks, and with Congress in the state it's in, they probably WANT this, to give them a reason to use whitelists to "accidentally" block out constituents.

    2. Fluffy Cactus

      Re: Remember the olden days...

      Actually I forgot the olden days

  21. Fluffy Cactus

    I don't have a blacklist, so unless I am working, or sleeping, or eating, or dealing with a host of necessary bodily functions, I'll still pick up the phone and say nothing at all. The robo calls appear to be voice activated, or even geared towards responding to something like "Hello", or "Hi this is ..." or "is this you, baby?"

    When I say "meeeow!", or "Woof, woof, woof" they hang up quickly. Currently I am experimenting to see which bird call, elefant sound, lion roar, frog or duck sound, etc. confuses the robo caller the most.

    I also confuse people by using manners: When someone calls and says "Is this Bobby?" without introducing themselves, then I say "The international standard of phone manners requires that the caller introduces themselves first! Without being properly introduced I cannot talk to you!" Not even legitimate callers can handle that sort of a lesson.

    I should mention the most hilarious call situation I had in about 2015, when Obama was still president:

    A "cold calling" guy from some mortgage company gave me this line: "Hi, we are working alongside president Obama to get you the lowest government guaranteed rate for your next mortgage,..."

    and I interrupted him and asked "You are working alongside president Obama? Can you put him on the line? " ... and the guy was cracking up, laughing out loud and hung up.

    I got both artificial and natural stupidity working for me. It doesn't get me a job, but it's entertaining.

    And if it's not funny, it's just not worth it.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      I'd be careful. It'll probably soon reach the point where ANY bit of voice you emit will be twisted around to produce a plausible "yes" for them.

      "The international standard of phone manners requires that the caller introduces themselves first!"

      I tried something like that. Turned out it was a live caller who'd been in the trenches and countered, "Actually, the standard demands the callee simply stand there and take it as they have no legal control over the conversation. If you wish to speak to our legal team where you can cite the actual law that states your case, I'll be happy to transfer you. Otherwise..." and kept going.

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