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United States Privacy

Senators Attempting To Remove Robocall Loophole 108

New submitter bearded_yak writes: Last week, it was reported here that a loophole for debt collection robocalls had found its way into the budget bill. In the end, the loophole survived. Now, several senators want to remove it with Senator Ed Markey's "Help Americans Never Get Unwanted Phone calls" (HANGUP) Act. Meanwhile, according to an article at Consumerist, "the Federal Communications Commission has nine months to craft rules dictating the conditions under which the government would be allowed to make these robocalls", so perhaps this loophole will meet its end before that time.
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Senators Attempting To Remove Robocall Loophole

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  • by The Real Dr John ( 716876 ) on Friday November 06, 2015 @08:18AM (#50876065) Homepage

    But in case that never happens, you can just buy a call blocker and hook it up to your phone.

    • But then how would we get to participate in fake surveys?

    • Is there anything that can be done about the increase number of robocalls I'm getting on my cellphone? I thought that was already illegal.

    • I have a call blocker installed at home, and it is awesome. When someone calls from a blocked number or a "Private" or "No Info" number, my house phones never even ring.

      The only problem is that it commonly blocks known good callers if the phone company doesn't display the caller ID info fast enough. It keeps me from calling the house from my cell on a fairly regular basis. No bid deal, just redial. I have had complaints from several family members that it keeps dropping their calls, but that is a sma
    • Had an unlisted number when we had foster kids. The new number used to belong to some deadbeat. Started getting automated calls for Joseph T****. I was not him, so the calls continued for several months. The recording gave a callback number and the automated call did not have any option to talk to anybody. Did a search online to find the culprit and found a collection agency in Illinois. Called their direct number and asked to be removed from their telemarketing and add me to their do not call database

  • ... love of "clever" backronyms? They're neither cute nor clever.
    • Because idiots need it literally spelled out for them. And since legislators, and most of their constituents, are idiots...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LMariachi ( 86077 )

      They're not really backronyms, as the drafters didn't say "We're calling this HANGUP, now go find a phrase that could stand for!" If staffers had come up with a better title that abbreviated to DIALTONE or NOCALLS they'd have gone with that. The military does the same thing, but they're far more apt to drop or include letters to make an appropriately military-sounding word. It's probably a pretty fun process! And you have to admit this one is better than most; the title isn't a tortured mess. They could ha

    • by Willuz ( 1246698 )
      This is to help the public focus on one popular idea in the bill instead of the myriad unrelated attachments that we would not be so happy about. Every popular cause can be used as cover for hundreds of changes that would be far less popular.
  • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Friday November 06, 2015 @08:48AM (#50876217) Homepage Journal

    That's so nice of you to want to protect us from spam. But you know what's even more annoying and threatening and expensive than spam?

    ..found its way into the budget bill.

    Worse than spam, is stuff that "finds its way" into our laws without ever being attributed. The guilty parties are never punished or even informally shamed or identified so that anyone can ever vote approval or disapproval for that person in the next election.

    Put an end to unattributed "malgislation" (eww, let's keep working on finding the right word) and then you'll really be heroes. I want every item in every bill to have a person's name on it. Let them continue to be as evil and un-American as they want with their laws, but let's stop allowing them to be irresponsibly anonymous when they do it.

    • by Dredd13 ( 14750 )

      What you want is "git blame" for bills.

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        The problem with git blame is they keep forking it and assigning the bugs to the other party. We get to send our pull requests soon but it's unlikely to change and the new maintainers will not actually apply the patch.

    • by Snotnose ( 212196 ) on Friday November 06, 2015 @09:49AM (#50876569)
      This. I'd like to see Congress adopt some sort of revision control system. Wanna modify a bill? Check it out, make your change, check it in. Lotsa changes? Branch it. Every commit has somebody's name on it, no more "gee, I dunno how that got in there" BS.

      Much like realistic campaign finance reform this will never happen because the system works the way the weasels in charge want it to work.
      • by dj245 ( 732906 )

        This. I'd like to see Congress adopt some sort of revision control system. Wanna modify a bill? Check it out, make your change, check it in. Lotsa changes? Branch it. Every commit has somebody's name on it, no more "gee, I dunno how that got in there" BS.

        That wouldn't work either. Senior congresspeople bully their juniors all the time into doing their dirty work. Want someone to support you in getting on the XYZ committee? You better sneak their pork into the "must-pass" bill for them. Etc. It's all power and influence behind the scenes.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      In WI, there's been an attempt by the legislature to reofrm the state's FOIA so that you can NEVER find out how things 'find their way' into bills. Such as exempting draft versions and authorship from requests.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I want every item in every bill to have a person's name on it. Let them continue to be as evil and un-American as they want with their laws, but let's stop allowing them to be irresponsibly anonymous when they do it.

      It appears to have been introduced by Hal Rogers (R-Kentucky) [congress.gov]. I can't find reference to it anywhere else in the Congressional Record.

    • I have fantasized about this for years. Glad someone else recognizes the need for this as well.

      On another note, now we know why there are so many one-word campaign signs littering the landscape. The knuckleheads in Congress can't be bothered to find out what they are voting on, short of yet another acronym, and they assume we are equally shallow.

      Sad truth is, much of the time they are right.

    • Put an end to unattributed "malgislation" (eww, let's keep working on finding the right word) and then you'll really be heroes.

      "Illegislation"?

  • I use Google Voice to block robocalls. If a phone call comes in with no caller ID and doesn't leave a voicemail I add it to the block list. So far it has been quite effective.

    • by Scutter ( 18425 )

      How do you block it with no caller-id?

      • Easy ... use that as a blocking criteria.

        I can't speak for Google Voice, but my Panasonic cordless phones have built in things which say "block calls from unavailable or private numbers".

        If you are concealing your caller ID, my phone hangs up on you. Not my problem if you feel I should be answering your call without you telling me who you are.

        And then the rest of the time it's some other bullshit like "The Microsoft" who want me to believe they're calling me because I have a virus. Or want to clean my duc

  • Better Journalism (Score:5, Informative)

    by fulldecent ( 598482 ) on Friday November 06, 2015 @08:59AM (#50876289) Homepage

    Investigating "a loophole for debt collection robocalls had found its way into the budget bill":

    I can narrow this down to having been introduced by the House. Commit 2015-10-28 pushed by House shows:

    https://www.govtrack.us/congre... [govtrack.us]

    Previous 2015-05-22 revision committed by Senate

    https://www.govtrack.us/congre... [govtrack.us]

    Diff places blame on house.

    Perhaps an improvement would be

    "The United States House of Representatives added a loophole for debt collection robocalls into the budget bill":

    This is the limit of my journalism abilities here, but just hoping to make some improvement.

    I would glad pay money for Slashdot if somehow the journalism could be improved.

  • by ledow ( 319597 )

    "Help Americans Never Get Unwanted Phone calls" (HANGUP) Act."

    Your politicians spend far too much time thinking up cute names for laws, instead of enacting or repealing the bastard things.

    • by cdrudge ( 68377 )

      Introducing a bill doesn't require the approval of 218+51+1 individuals, all with their own personal agendas as well as that of their political party.

  • "that a loophole for debt collection robocalls had found its way into the budget bill". Just like your English teacher might have done, I want to see this phrase re-written in the active voice. I want appropriate attribution for such a loophole.

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      I want to see this phrase re-written in the active voice.

      "Mistakes were made." "A police-involved shooting."

      The language is full of these. Take a number and wait your turn.

  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Friday November 06, 2015 @09:45AM (#50876543)
    Robocalls from political campaigns are exempted too. My parents made a largish political donation a few years back, which apparently put them on some sort of list. They were harassed by robocalls asking for more political donations for over a year. It was so bad that when I visited a few months before the election, they didn't even bother answering the phone anymore, letting it go straight to voicemail and answering only if it was someone they knew leaving a message. They got 5-10 of these calls every night while I was there. When they moved and I asked if they wanted to keep their old phone number, their answer was hell no.
  • I get that call EVERY DAY on my cell phone, trying to offer me lower rates on my credit card(s). I've been getting the call every day for the last 2 years. I've tried just about everything. For an entire month I pressed 1 to talk to a representative and pretended to be interested to work my way up the chain, so that I could waste their time. I hoped that would get them to take me off the list. Didn't work. I have tried ignoring the calls, that doesn't work either. I have threatened them with everythi

    • Orlando. If you want to infiltrate the organization it's not that difficult. They place ads in craigslist there.

  • by Joe Branya ( 777172 ) on Friday November 06, 2015 @09:58AM (#50876629)

    Most Americans hate robocalls. More Americans put themselves on the “Do Not Call” (DNC) list than voted for any presidential candidate. The law does not work for two reasons. First, the federal government refuses to enforce it so none of the robocallers end up in jail. Second, the politicians wrote loopholes for themselves and friends. Political campaigns are allowed to make robocalls as are certain kinds of political non-profits.

    The only answer I can see is to create a political non-profit to advocate for the end of all robocals by using.... robocalls. Let’s call it the “ National Association To Stop ALL Robocalls” (NATSAR), and have the organization distribute to its members free software that allows them to randomly robo-call area code 301, 703, 202 and 212 numbers with a message saying “Hi, we are NATSAR and we want your support for legislation to make it a crime to send ANY unwanted /Marketing/Polling/Political message to a person on the DNC list. Would you like to join us?”. When the people in the DC area and NYC who run our government start getting 20 “political”- and thus legal- robocalls every day at dinner they’ll do something about it.

    I spend time in the Virginia suburbs of DC and take my word for it they don’t get tons of spam calls like people in the rest of the country. Why? For the same reason that in the 1960s every city in the U.S. except Washington had a Mafia crime family. The deal was “We’ll leave you alone in DC as long as we get a free hand to operate in the rest of the country”.

    • Only way to stop robocalls is a White List.
  • Just give me a way to white list the #'s I want to talk to and send everybody else directly to Voice Mail. They call all they want. No need to make any laws. Why isn't this the standard way it works already?
    • Sorry for the self reply, but I want a Pay Wall option on my Phone that says if you're not on the white list and you want to donate $0.50 to my phone bill, you have to have pre-funded an account that lets you Pay the $0.50 to my bill if I pick it up. If a phone company wants to rule the world, make this an option.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        This would be excellent, especially if you could easily refund the transaction - for example if a family member or a legitimate business with a real reason to contact you calls from an unknown number.

  • I got a better idea for how you can spend your time, Congress: How about you close all the 'loopholes' that allow our own gods-be-damned government from warrantless spying on our communications? IDGAF about 'robocalls', I'll just not answer the phone for numbers I don't know, but how about you stop the gods-be-damned NSA from watching us all like we're all gods-be-damned convicts?

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