July 11, 2019

AT&T to Block "Fraud" Calls - Another Brick in the Wall of Tyranny?

Timothy Birdnow

Telecommunications giant AT&T has announced it plans to block fraud calls

AT&T put out this statement:

Good news, AT&T customers: The carrier on Tuesday announced plans to start automatically blocking fraud calls for free.

The move comes after the FCC last month voted to let carriers block robocalls by default. AT&T is now the first of the big four U.S. carriers to commit to do that.

"The Commission's recent action builds on a years-long effort to enable broader adoption of call-blocking tools and allow providers to better protect their customers and networks," AT&T Communications Executive Vice President of Regulatory and State External Affairs Joan Marsh said in a statement. "AT&T remains committed to working with our government and industry partners in the ongoing battle against unwanted and illegal robocalls."

While this may sound like a good thing, I caution everyone to be dubious. How long before they begin blocking "fraud" calls from, say, conservative candidates running for Congress? From the NRA or other advocacy groups with which they disagree? How long will it be before they have a "no call list" for political dissidents?

Every time you restrict information, even for noble purposes, you open the door to abuse. Tyrannies are not so much born as slowly baked, often one brick at a time.. This is the exact sort of thing that acts as a brick in the wall of despotism.


Posted by: Timothy Birdnow at 07:54 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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1 Your point is well-taken, Tim. However, AT&T, and undoubtedly the other cellular carriers, have been under great pressure from their users -- and therefore the government -- to protect those customers from "fraud" calls, by which the customers increasingly mean mostly robocalls, but any unsolicited sales calls. The carriers have to be seen to be doing something, otherwise they will lose business. I fear it's a case of "damned if you do, damned if you don't."
And we customers don't have much recourse. The National Don't Call Registry is a dinosaur, and frankly, was even in the days before robocalls were developed. Now, machines do the calling, and it does absolutely no good to pick up the phone and say (or yell) "DON'T CALL ME AGAIN!" Now, we're told "don't answer the call." You have different ways to block calls but keeping up with the different numbers calling in is a never-ending task.

I keep getting text messages offering me a chance to go to work for Amazon. I doubt they're genuine. I send them to a SPAM list but they keep coming -- texts appear unblockable, unlike voice calls.
It's tempting to go back to the old Dixie cups and string. . .

Posted by: Dana Mathewson at July 11, 2019 10:09 AM (rIYC+)

2 I agree, Dana, and certainly this feature is a useful tool, but what is happening here is that AT&T is giving this to you whether you want it or not. To me that makes all the difference. And, as I say, the nose of the camel can be seen here.

The no-call list worked great until the explosion in cell phones. It's too bad; I never received unsolicited calls way back when. 

Posted by: Timothy Birdnow at July 12, 2019 07:56 AM (U/bHD)

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