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I don't care if it is for profit, non-profit, Democratic Party, Republican Party, Monster Raving Loonie Party, or my local NPR station, I am fucking sick to fucking death of telemarketers, and I want to destroy their companies.  (The ordinary employees of telemarketers are in a bad situation, working crappy jobs, for little money, so I wish them better jobs, and permission to kick their supervisors in the crotch)

Well, I was doing some texting via voice recognition on my Android phone, and I realized that smartphones have become amazingly capable at such things.

They also do credible speech generation, though I have not been able to find a Brooklyn accent voice for Google maps.

Well, since the 1966, there has been various levels of natural language processing on computers, most notably Eliza, and the state of the art has advanced significantly over the years.

Given all of this, I would like to see an app developed to specifically torture telemarketers.  You get the call, and you select a specific personality,  like, "Harried Mom", or "In the middle of a home invasion", or (my favorite idea this far) "heavily accented south Asian tech support personnel", or (for political fundraisers) "the anarcho-syndicalist Dennis from Month Python and the Holy Grail."

The idea, of course, is that instead of just hanging up, the program strings them along for 5-15 minutes.  Suddenly the cost of annoying me on the phone increases by a factor of 10 or 20, and all I have to do is boot up the app.

In any case, I have a couple of questions:

  • The first is whether such an application, even if it never stores the contents call, would violate various wiretap statutes that prohibit surreptitious recording?
  • Should there be functionality to invoke a human operator when receiving robocalls?
  • Many carriers (and Apple) seem to forbid any app interaction with calls.  Is there a way to structure this app to avoid this, or should I start lobbying my congressman for a law allowing for this?
  • Would you be interested in such an app?
  • Is a kit that would allow this to plug into a land line a good accessory>

I know that this is only barely politics, but after a the last political cycle, I am sick to death of all forms of telemarketing.  (Hell, after my 15th encounter with a robocall telling me to vote against gay marriage, I was willing to marry a guy just to piss them off).

*Yes, I know that fsck is actually a *nix command to run a check of the file system, but I you know what I really meant.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (18+ / 0-)

    What personalities would you want for this app?

    6/24/05: Charlie the Tuna Creator Dies En lieu of flowers, please bring mayonnaise, chopped celery and paprika.

    by LunkHead on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 10:24:17 AM PST

  •  The Late Sam Kinnison (4+ / 0-)

    6/24/05: Charlie the Tuna Creator Dies En lieu of flowers, please bring mayonnaise, chopped celery and paprika.

    by LunkHead on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 10:24:40 AM PST

  •  Former telemarketer here (5+ / 0-)

    It was really the Worst Job Ever for Shy Persons, but I did get some interesting brainwashing training from AT&T and watched motivational films by Vince Lombari (this was back in 1974).

    Lacking any apps such as you describe, and feeling some empathy for any courteous telemarketers, I break in at the earliest moment and say:

    "I used to be a telemarketer, and I know how valuable your time is. There's no chance that I'll be purchasing your [product, service], but I wish you the very best with your next call".
    One more utterance from them, and I hang up.

    Those who do not understand history are condemned to repeat it... in summer school.

    by cassandracarolina on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 10:39:48 AM PST

  •  "Teabagger Conspiracy Crackpot" Would Be Fun nt (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cassandracarolina, LefseBlue

    On the Internet, nobody knows if you're a dog... but everybody knows if you're a jackass.

    by stevemb on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 10:42:19 AM PST

  •  simplest (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cassandracarolina, Joe Bob, stevemb

    is a one button "tri tone signal for" this number has been disconnected". It will signal an autodialer to hang up.

    "Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government" T. Jefferson

    by azureblue on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 10:47:47 AM PST

  •  Can't you just rm -rf / them? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The thing about quotes on the internet is you cannot confirm their validity. ~Abraham Lincoln

    by raboof on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 10:54:18 AM PST

  •  Comments (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cassandracarolina, Joe Bob, stevemb

    I'm at work so I'm going to actually answer as though I were doing my job.

    1. I don't see any issues regarding wiretap laws; what you're doing is no different, in principle, than an intelligent voicemail device.

    2. The issue here is deciding that something is a telemarketer call.

    What all those unwanted calls have in common is that they are not done on behalf of commercial entities.  Why?  The do-not-call enabling legislation explicitly exempts non-profits and political organizations, as well as pollsters.

    So after wringing their hands over lost opportunities for tele-selling swampland in Florida and fifth-rate vinyl siding, the telemarketing industry set to exploit this loophole.  Thus, the technology and process are lifted straight out of the existing playbook.  Basically, telemarketing companies either contract with existing groups to use their name in return for a percentage of the money they make, or in some cases cook up their own charities which minimally meet the IRS and state anti-fraud laws (e.g., some of the money gets donated), but which have much higher margins for the telemarketing group.

    This is a long-winded answer, but what it comes down to is that those calls are made from boiler rooms using autodialers.  (Some of the technology is not dissimilar to what is used in a call center.)  The autodialer goes trolling for valid numbers -- it also knows what exchange codes belong to landlines, what belongs to mobiles, and can easily figure out what's happening if it gets a data or fax line before a human is dispatched for the call.

    When you answer, you'll notice a fairly long delay as the request is queued to a telemarketer and connected.  There are a lot of telemarketers in the boiler room and the system has a good idea who is freeing up.  Part of the call handoff is pulling up the appropriate script (e.g., one boiler room can do more than one client at once).

    This delay is your ace in the hole because it lets you distinguish between a real call and a telemarketer (it won't work for robocalls which don't need to dispatch a human operator).

    3. I would prefer for this to run on a more powerful freestanding device.  However, at least on Android, you can grant an application permission to interact with the phone.  It is not the default for obvious reasons, and you'd need to manually set it up that way.  (Furthermore, you can tell your Android phone to accept apps from other than Google Play, including your own Android SDK, which is a standard Eclipse framework that you download from Google.  I'm not sure how you develop for iOS or what the rules are for app interaction with the phone.)

    3a.  The app would need to be able to do two things.

    (a) Detect a delay, e.g. if it's more than a second or two seconds or whatever before speech is recognized, don't pass the call to you.  A first version might just block the calls based on this.

    3b. Mess with the mind of the caller.  This does not require elaborate speech recognition, just enough to make something that is a credible imitation of a garrolous pinhead.  (Distinguishing between caller types is a lot harder.  You need to recognize how the speech software on the phone parsed the speech and then figure out what kind of caller you've got.  That's too bad, I like the idea of doing the anarcho-syndicalist commune routine to political callers.)  To respond intelligently, you need a lot more than something like Eliza.

    I'd just randomly pick a script, perhaps from several (Cheeseburger-Cheeseburger skit from 1970s SNL, General purpose anarcho-syndicalist from Monty Python, Jeff Foxworthy skit, or just outright phone sex porn, and of course many others.)  Most of the telemarketers tend to read from scripts and not deviate from them.

    •  WordSaladShooter ver1.0 (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mess with the mind of the caller.  This does not require elaborate speech recognition, just enough to make something that is a credible imitation of a garrolous pinhead.
      So, feed a bunch of Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, and Rick Perry speeches into a basic ELIZA-type program, then?

      On the Internet, nobody knows if you're a dog... but everybody knows if you're a jackass.

      by stevemb on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 12:20:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  You forgot that in order to access the audio (0+ / 0-)

      from voice calls requires installing a custom kernel with support for call recording which means unlocking the bootloader (S-OFF) which is often a pain in the butt.

      You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

      by Throw The Bums Out on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 03:23:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I used to be a CSR in a call center (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cassandracarolina, kat68

    It sucked hard and for that reason I try really, really hard not to be a dick when I'm on the phone with one. Taking inbound calls is much different than telemarketing though.

    I have no problem messing with telemarketers a little bit because they are contacting me without my permission. However, the nicest thing you can do for them is to just hang up on them mid-pitch. They'll move right along to the next number.

  •  Similar, And Free (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cassandracarolina, Joe Bob, prfb

    I used this technique to be rid not of sales calls, but of a very persistent collection agency that kept calling for my mother-in-law, who lived with us and at that point was quite demented (we told them, they didn't care):

    When they called and asked to talk to -- lets call her 'Jane -- I'd ask who is calling, to verify it was the collection agency, and then say "OK, let me get her, be right back!"

    And of course, I'd put the phone down, connection open, and go about my business.

    I've no idea how long the saps would wait for someone to come back to the phone.  Ten minutes later, when I'd hang it up, they were always gone.

    We had received dozens upon dozens of calls over many months from these people.  After doing this about five times, the calls stopped permanently.

  •  During the dotcom crash (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    During the dotcom crash, IT jobs were pretty hard to find.  So I found a job to program robodialers.  Remember those robodialers that would call you and then hang up for no apparent reason?  That was by design, as per the specifications:

    -robo dialer is connected to a block of 48 telephone lines
    -a team of telemarketing agents are logged into the PBX
    -robo dialer war dials from a list of telephone numbers entered into a database
    -when a human answers the phone, it is connected a live agent

    In those cases where for whatever reason an agent is not available and a human answered the phone, the application would simply disconnect the call.

    The rationale for calling such a large number of people at once is to reduce down time for the telemarketing agents.  They figured that 4 robo calls be initiated at the same time for every agent that is marked "Ready" to be connected to a live person.

    I think this application is still in use today, though I am no longer employed at the company who uses it.  I am not so proud that I helped to make an app specifically designed to annoy people, but I had to eat at the time.

  •  Get another shitty job, telemarketer (0+ / 0-)

    If it's a commercial call, depending on what I'm doing, I'll either waste as much of their time as I can, by setting the phone down or pretending to be interested then being obviously nuts.
    Sometimes, if I've been repeatedly interrupted by marketers, I'll do what I can to make them sorry they used their time on me.

    I'm the plowman in the valley - with my face full of mud

    by labradog on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 11:52:22 AM PST

  •  my solution (0+ / 0-)

    have an unlisted number and never give an amoral entity (i.e. corporation) your real phone #.

    •  Hmmm...How about throw away phone numbers? (0+ / 0-)

      You pay a buck for a number, it is a straight to voice mail number, it lasts for 6 months, and then gets shut down. (or more accurately, you eliminate the voice mail box, and replace the message with an "out or service tone" for a year or so, and then someone else can use it as a throw away).

      Kind of like extra Hotmail accounts.

      6/24/05: Charlie the Tuna Creator Dies En lieu of flowers, please bring mayonnaise, chopped celery and paprika.

      by LunkHead on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 01:19:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  For Android phones (0+ / 0-)

    and I'd assume on Iphones, you can use an ap called Callfilter. It will take any calls from Unknown/Unavailable/Private Number and you can set it to send them straight to voicemail- where they usually (99% of the time) hang up.

    I use it and love it.

    Small varmints, if you will.

    by aztecraingod on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 01:19:13 PM PST

    •  Actually, Call Master (or the easier to use (0+ / 0-)

      Root Call Blocker) work even better though both of them require root access (though you don't need S-OFF) so they can intercept and block the call before it even rings/vibrates once and you don't even get a missed call notification.

      Also, there is no way to do such a thing on the iPhone without jailbreaking it.

      You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

      by Throw The Bums Out on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 03:19:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  In case it's of use to anyone here (0+ / 0-)

        I simply 'save' the number[s] to my addy book ...(as "Spam123xx") and assign a "no ring" to it.   Then, if anyone calls back (they DO, a lot) ... it vibes .... (no ring) ... I don't answer (& I don't waste any time with call-backs).  

        I've got 171 spammers in my addy book (so far).  But, many (MANY) call-backs, that don't phase me.
        This works for old "dumb" phones too...

        ~A govt lobbied, campaigned and selected by corporation... is good for corporation. Bad for people.~ -8.88 -8.36

        by Orj ozeppi on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 03:46:38 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well I like call master because of the scheduling (0+ / 0-)

          and that you can have as many blacklists as you want.  So you can set it to not block from 8:00am to 5:00pm and only allow calls from people in your addressbook from 5:01pm to 7:59am if you want.  It also works for SMS and MMS (and blocks MMS before download so you don't waste your data on spam videos).

          You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

          by Throw The Bums Out on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 03:49:47 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  The problem with such an app is that for apps (0+ / 0-)

    to have access to the call audio requires you to use a custom kernel with "call recording" enabled and even then it might not support injecting audio into calls.  Using a custom kernel requires you to not only root but get S-OFF which is rarely as simple as "adb oem unlock" like it is on tablets.  I was wondering why there wasn't a similar app to encrypt/scramble voice calls like the old style STU-IIIs and that is why.

    You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

    by Throw The Bums Out on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 03:16:02 PM PST

  •  I fuck with them myself... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    tell them you really want to talk, you just need to get off your other call, then hang up; when they call right back do it again - see how many times they call back. Or I'll suddenly say "I know you're laughing at me. God can see you and he told me. You gotta stop it! You stop laughing at me! God can see you!" Or, "Why are you guys watching me? Are you following me around? What do you want with me? I can see you watching me! I can feel your eyes! God can see you watching me." They usually hang up.

    when I see a republican on tv, I always think of Monty Python: "Shut your festering gob you tit! Your type makes me puke!"

    by bunsk on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 04:35:19 PM PST

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