Hiya, Mind Commerce seek industry cooperation, quality-testing standard for unwanted call solutions

Mind Commerce is working with Hiya for industry collaboration on testing the quality of spam detection solutions. (Getty Images)

Market research advisory firm Mind Commerce believes industry cooperation is needed to standardize definitions of what an “unwanted call” is, and create a framework for testing the quality of spam call detection solutions.

Hiya is the first carrier spam detection solution provider to commit to the effort, but Mind Commerce CEO and founder Gerry Christensen told FierceWireless that for the effort to be effective, other leaders in the space, like TNS and First Orion, would need to get involved as well.

In a May interview with FierceWireless, Hiya founder and CEO Alex Algard said the industry needs a standard way to measure the effectiveness of spam filters, and the company has suggested its own methodology as a blueprint for that.

Ideally, Christensen envisions spam detection service providers sitting down to cooperate on a certain level, but with third parties in place to provide oversight or governance. For example, Christensen sees a group made up of a party like Consumer Reports to provide the consumer validation piece, an industry organization like CTIA, and a market research or consulting firm providing oversight. Of course, Christensen said he would love if Mind Commerce (which conducted a robocall study in 2018 and has been providing consulting and analysis on the topic) can be involved, but noted a different company could also play that role.  

RELATED: Hiya calls for industry standard to compare robocall solution providers

He acknowledged all the competitors will not see eye-to-eye, and each will have their own agenda, which is why he thinks a steering committee is needed.

Carriers would also be involved, either explicitly at the table or through their solution provider as a representative, Christensen said.

With the barrage of robocalls hitting U.S. consumers each day, the Federal Communications Commission in June authorized carriers to block robocalls by default without the need for customers to opt-in, so the accuracy of spam detection filtering is an increasingly important component.

One challenge is there is not a standard definition of what constitutes an “unwanted call,” as some unwanted calls are from legitimate sources, such as those from schools, banks or healthcare providers.

Prior to the June FCC vote, a variety of businesses voiced objections to the agency’s rule, raising concerns that important calls to customers would be blocked automatically.

RELATED: FCC Commissioner unimpressed with carriers’ actions against robocalls

While carriers have been taking steps to implement the STIR/SHAKEN authentication protocol across networks and provide opt-in robocall blocking services, there appears to be hesitance to shift to automatic call blocking until there is liability protection for doing so.

Sprint earlier this month said, “Because it is inevitable that legal calls will occasionally be falsely identified as illegal robocalls, carriers must have some form of liability protection.”

Mind Commerce agreed that the industry needs a standard definition of what an “unwanted call” is, and needs to develop guidance for scenarios in which a call should, could, and should not be blocked.

As part of its announcement, Mind Commerce also put out an initial industry quality testing framework that includes:

  • Using representative data, ideally real traffic sourced from consumers to reflect the actual spam volume being experienced
  • Near real-time reputation sampling to get the analytics services’ labels for a phone number without bias or manipulation
  • Measure statistics of spam detection rate, error rate, and the combination of the two as it impacts consumers and callers.

Mind Commerce believes taking these steps will result in protecting consumers from unwanted calls, as well as businesses from calls being erroneously blocked.

Christensen acknowledged that the issue, while important, is challenging and complex to figure out, but said that’s “all the more reason” to strive toward some level of industry collaboration even among rival companies.

“I think there’s a really good possibility that we could make things better for the industry as a result of this type of cooperation among competitors,” Christensen said.