FAQ

Why is the FTC holding the Robocall Challenge?
How can I get information about the National Do Not Call Registry?
Do I have to create a solution that will block robocalls on landlines and mobile phones? What if my solution only blocks for one of the two?
Are there datasets or API’s that I need to include in my solution?
What is the definition of an illegal robocall?
What does it mean to block a robocall?
Is there a specific device I need to use?
Should I upload a video?
Do I need to provide access to my solution for testing?
What are the criteria for judging the submissions?
Do I retain intellectual property ownership?
Can more than one person work on a solution and receive credit for it? And if the solution wins a prize, how will the prize money be split among the creators?
Can I enter more than one submission?
Who is eligible to enter the competition?
We are an organization. Can we enter?
Do the submitted solutions have to be newly created for this competition, or can they be pre-existing?
What will the FTC and ChallengePost do with my submission?
If I charge for my solution, is it still eligible for FTC Robocall Challenge?
What are the key competition dates?
How to Enter
How do I follow the FTC Robocall Challenge and get updates?
Who can I contact if I have questions about the FTC Robocall Challenge?

Why is the FTC holding the Robocall Challenge?

Pursuant to its enforcement of the Telemarketing Sales Rule, the FTC has stopped entities responsible for billions of illegal robocalls. However, as technology has continued to advance, the need for new and innovative ways to block these illegal calls has increased. The FTC is challenging innovators to create solutions that will block illegal robocalls now and in the future.

How can I get information about the National Do Not Call Registry?

In order to access the National Do Not Call registry, it is necessary to provide a social security number or employer identification number. On page 8 of the FTC’s Do Not Call Data Book, you can find information about how many entities accessed the registry in each of the last five fiscal years.

Do I have to create a solution that will block robocalls on landlines and mobile phones? What if my solution only blocks for one of the two?

Your solution is not required to solve for both landlines and mobile phones in order to be eligible. However, a submission that blocks only robocalls on one type of phone will not be scored as highly as a solution for multiple types. Please see the Official Rules for more details.

Are there datasets or API’s that I need to include in my solution?

There are no required datasets or API’s (Application Programming Interfaces) that must be included in your solution. You may choose to include the Robocall Complaint Data if you wish, but it is not required.

What is the definition of an illegal robocall?

Simply put, if you pick up the phone and hear a recorded message instead of a live person, that’s a robocall. If the recording is a sales message (not a call from your healthcare provider or a charity), and you haven’t given your written permission to get calls from the company on the other end, the call is illegal. For those seeking more detail, the relevant rules are the Telemarketing Sales Rule and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

The FTC offers a guide to complying with the Telemarketing Sales Rule here.

The FCC offers a guide to unwanted telephone marketing calls here.

For more information, you may also want to view the video from the FTC Robocall Summit, and especially the panel on “The Law” at the end of the morning session. You can find the agenda and slide presentations on the FTC’s site, and the video archive is located at ftc.gov/videos, under the heading ‘FTC Events.’

What does it mean to block a robocall?

Blocking a robocall means preventing your phone from ringing when a robocall is sent to your number.

Is there a specific device I need to use?

You may use any device you choose, as long as you have the legal right to use it in the way that you propose/describe; and as long as it will block illegal robocalls on a landline and/or mobile phone. Additionally, entries can be proposed technical solutions or proofs of concept. Please see the Official Rules for more details.

Should I upload a video?

Videos are not required, however a video can help describe your solution to judges. You may create a screencast or use a handheld video camera to make your video, or choose any other method that captures the solution’s value and user interface. Keep in mind that the video will be publicly displayed on the website so you should not include proprietary information about your submission. If you choose to create a video you must fill out a video consent form for everyone who appears in your video, regardless of age.

Do I need to provide access to my solution for testing?

If you created a proof of concept solution, you are not required to include it with your submission.

What are the criteria for judging the submissions?

All submissions will be judged on the following criteria. Your Technical Proposal should address each question below.

Does it work? (weighted at 50%)

  • How successful is the proposed solution likely to be in blocking illegal robocalls? Will it block wanted calls? An ideal solution blocks all illegal robocalls and no calls that are legally permitted. (For example, automated calls by political parties, charities, and health care providers, as well as reverse 911 calls, are not illegal robocalls.)
  • How many consumer phones can be protected? What types of phones? Mobile phones? Traditional wired lines? VoIP land lines? Proposals that will work for all phones will be more heavily weighted.
  • What evidence do you already have to support your idea? Running code? Experiments? Peer-reviewed publications?
  • How easy might it be for robocallers to adapt and counter your scheme? How flexible is your scheme to adapt to new calling techniques? How have you validated these points? Remember that the real test of a security system is not whether or not you can break it; it’s whether or not other people can.

Is it easy to use? (weighted at 25%)

  • How difficult would it be for a consumer to learn to use your solution?
  • How efficient would it be to use your solution, from a consumer’s perspective?
  • Are there mistakes consumers might make in using your solution, and how severe would they be?
  • How satisfying would it be to use your solution?
  • Would your solution be accessible to people with disabilities?

Can it be rolled out? (weighted at 25%)

  • What has to be changed for your idea to work? Can it function in today’s marketplace? (E.g., Does it require changes to all phone switches world-wide, and require active cooperation by all of the world’s phone companies and VoIP gateways, or can it work with limited adoption?) Solutions that are deployable at once will be more heavily weighted, as will solutions that give immediate benefits with even small-scale deployment.
  • Is deployment economically realistic?
  • How rapidly can your idea be put into production?

Do I retain intellectual property ownership?

Yes. By submitting an application to the FTC Robocall Challenge, you do not transfer any intellectual property rights to the FTC or ChallengePost. However the FTC and ChallengePost will have the right to feature your solution’s name, text description, images, and video (if you submit one) on the website and elsewhere for promotional purposes. Your proposal will only be viewable by the FTC, ChallengePost, and the judges. See the Official Rules for details.

Can more than one person work on a solution and receive credit for it? And if the solution wins a prize, how will the prize money be split among the creators?

Yes, teams are encouraged. If a team of individuals, a corporation or an organization is selected as an award winner, the full prize amount will be sent to the submitter. It will be up to the winning team or organization to reallocate the prize money among the team members, as they deem it appropriate. Please note that corporations or organizations with 10 or more employees do not qualify for the Best Overall Solution award, however they are eligible for the Federal Trade Commission Technology Achievement Award. See the Official Rules for details.

Can I enter more than one submission?

Yes. There is no limit to how many times an eligible person, team or organization may enter the challenge. An individual may also participate on behalf of more than one team, corporation, or nonprofit organization. However, if you submit two or more submissions that are identical or substantially similar, the FTC and ChallengePost reserve the right to disqualify all the submissions or require you to choose one submission to enter into the competition.

Who is eligible to enter the competition?

The FTC Robocall Challenge is open to citizens and permanent residents of the United States, who are 18 years of age or older, and to organizations that are incorporated in the United States and maintain their primary place of business in the United States. (See the next question for large organization eligibility.)

We are an organization. Can we enter?

Organizations with fewer than 10 employees may enter and compete for the cash prizes if they are incorporated in the United States and maintain their primary place of business in the United States. Organizations with 10 or more employees may enter and compete for the Federal Trade Commission Technology Achievement Award, which has no cash prize. Large Organizations must also be incorporated and maintain their primary place of business in the United States.

Do the submitted solutions have to be newly created for this competition, or can they be pre-existing?

Submissions that are already on the market will be eligible only if significant new functionality has been added after the start of the submission period. You must indicate at the time of entry that the solution existed prior to the competition and describe the new functionality that has been added.

What will the FTC and ChallengePost do with my submission?

The FTC and ChallengePost will have the right to publicly display on the challenge website the name, text description, image(s), and video (if submitted) included with your submission. The technical proposal included with your submission will be viewable only by the FTC, ChallengePost, and the judges. The FTC and ChallengePost will also be allowed to publicize your name on the challenge website and elsewhere in connection with the challenge, during the competition and for 36 months after its conclusion. For more information on publicity rights, please see the Official Rules.

Yes, you can charge for your solution if it is currently on the market, as long as significant new functionality has been added after the start of the submission period. However, if you do charge you must provide free access to your solution (upon request) for judging without requiring the FTC, ChallengePost, or the judges to agree to terms and conditions.

What are the key competition dates?

The submission deadline is January 17, 2013, at 5 p.m. EST. Judging will begin immediately after the submission period closes on January 17, 2013, at 5 p.m. EST, and will end March 31, 2013 at 5 p.m. EST. Winners will be announced in early April 2013.

How to Enter

  1. Create an account or log in with an existing ChallengePost account.
  2. On http://Robocall.Challenge.gov, click Accept this challenge to register your interest in participating. This step ensures that you will receive important challenge updates.
  3. Develop a solution that will block illegal robocalls on landlines and/or mobile phones and can operate on a proprietary or non-proprietary device or platform. Entries can be proposed technical solutions or functional solutions and proofs of concept. Create a technical proposal describing how the solution works or would work if implemented and confirm that your proposal addresses all questions on the Criteria Details page.
  4. Confirm that you have read and agree to the Official Rules.
  5. Submissions must include:
    • a title;
    • one or more images representative of your solution;
    • indication of whether or not the contestant is a large organization and the name of the organization (if applicable);
    • a brief text description of how the solution functions or would function if implemented;
    • a file upload including the technical proposal. These materials should total 15 pages or less and should specifically address each of the three judging criteria for this challenge;
    • and all other required submission form fields.
  6. Submissions may also include a video demonstrating a working solution on a device or an emulator, or describing how the proposed solution would work if implemented. Any such video shall consist of technical content (rather than marketing material) and total no more than 5 minutes. Videos that demonstrate usability or illustrate dynamic processes are particularly helpful. If you choose to create a video you must fill out a video consent form for everyone who appears in your video, regardless of age.

How do I follow the FTC Robocall Challenge and get updates?

When you accept the challenge, you’ll automatically receive updates regarding the Challenge. But anyone can receive email updates by clicking “Follow”. Follow us on Twitter at @challengepost or join the conversation with #robocallchallenge.

Who can I contact if I have questions about the FTC Robocall Challenge?

Email Support@ChallengePost.com