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Crater sized loophole in the Truth in Caller ID Act?

Yesterday the US Congress passed the Truth in Caller ID Act, designed to curtail deceptive Caller ID spoofing.  The substance of the law is this short paragraph:

“It shall be unlawful for any person within the United States, in connection with any real time voice communications service, regardless of the technology or network utilized, to cause any caller ID service to transmit misleading or inaccurate caller ID information, with the intent to defraud or deceive.”

The law very broadly defines Caller ID, and then goes on to provide exemptions for Caller-ID blocking, and law enforcement professionals.

Critics have said that this law will prevent all kinds of uses of Caller ID that may be legitimate – for instance, corporations choosing to present a main dialling number rather than the numbers of individual PBX extensions.  It seems to me, however, that a loophole has been presented in the language of this bill.  Specifically, the bill outlaws Caller ID spoofing “with the intent to defraud or deceive.” Clearly there is nothing fraudulent or deceptive in presenting a business’ main calling number when a customer service representative calls.  Arguably the business is providing a better service, and certainly it allows them to more easily manage the call center when an employee leaves.

What do you think?

{ 6 comments… add one }

  • Andy Dunn April 15, 2010, 4:17 am

    I don't think presenting your main number could in any way be construed as deceptive or misleading. In fact it presents exactly the kind of accurate information that the recipient of the call wants… the answer to the question "if I want to find out more, or complain, or ask questions, whom do I call?".

    I do work for clients who do this all the time. It's silly to present the calling line ID of the specific line in the call center (which just leads back into a queue anyhow, and seldom if ever rings the agent's desk), and just plain sensible to give the business' contact phone number.

    It's especially true of a fully automated call which is probably made by a third party anyhow. The actual calling line ID is a useless piece of information in that case.

    I wonder how anybody might construe delivering a main business number or call center queue number as an "intent to deceive"?

  • Troy Davis April 15, 2010, 8:31 am

    I agree but I wouldn't call it a loophole – I think that clause was baked in from the beginning for exactly situations like that (and Google Voice, and Skype, and others).

    When the recipient elects to have a one-number service spoof the caller's original number, or when the sender controls multiple numbers (and CIDs as a primary one), it's not deceiving.

    Congress is (maybe intentionally, maybe out of lack of time) letting the FCC and eventually the courts decide what is deceptive or defrauding.

    I've got more details on potential impacts – or lack thereof – at http://blog.cloudvox.com/post/523641421/what-the-

  • Adam Kalsey April 15, 2010, 9:39 am

    This doesn't do anything for non-US companies. So spoofing will continue. Passing laws that are designed to stop things enabled by technology won't ever work.

  • John Todd April 15, 2010, 9:41 am

    This is a purely political CYA by Congress, with no real additional protection for users of the American phone system. It has been a felony for a long time to use the phone system for fraud or deceit, but this will make it easier for dim-witted prosecutors to point to something without thinking as hard as they should have in the first place.

    Oh– by the way, what is a "Caller ID"? Is it a SIP URI? What about calls that never pass over any SS7-signaled portions of the phone system? More laws are not necessarily the right answer here, but Congress is always willing to pile on a few more into the fire.

    (Note: this doesn't apply to you Canadians, or any other nation that shares "country" code +1… huzzah for the non-overlapping area in the Venn diagram of politics and technology!)

    JT

  • Neal Gilbert April 16, 2010, 5:09 am

    I don't think the intent of the bill is to prevent companies from presenting a main number. But I don't think the bill is going to be that effective because it only covers the US.

    Many VoIP companies provide service to no US citizens and businesses who reside outside of the US. US laws don't affect these businesses or individuals.

  • Ed Prentice April 18, 2010, 2:39 pm

    For entertainment to do watch my home Caller ID. I never answer the phone unless I see a known ID. Even where a number is displayed there is often no clue who is calling or from where. A call center could argue that they simply arrange for terminations for cost reasons and no to deceive. I have a bridge to sell also. This law does little to recognize the state of telephony–like our law-makers would have a clue.

    If this law was meant to have any real teeth it would require callers to display a traceable number and name. This would require that services provide this, which may be a problem for some. The real number that you want displayed is one you can actually call–for example to demand they stop calling.

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