Last week, the Federal Communications Commission announced plans to fine Dialing Services, LLC, nearly $3 million for making illegal “robocalls” to cell phones. The FCC has specific rules for automatic telephone dialing systems, also known as “autodialers,” that have the capacity to produce, store, and dial telephone numbers using a random or sequential number generator. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) prohibits the transmission of robocalls to mobile phones except for (1) calls made for emergency purposes, or (2) calls made with the “prior express consent” of the call recipient. (In 2012, the FCC promulgated a rule to require “prior express written consent” for such calls that contain a “telemarketing” or “advertisement” component.) The FCC alleged that Dialing Services transmitted automated or prerecorded voice messages on behalf of political campaigns and candidates without the prior express consent of the call recipients. Neither the TCPA nor the FCC’s rules contains a general exception from the autodialer prohibition for political calls.

This is not the first time that Dialing Services has heard from federal regulators. In March of last year, the FCC issued a citation to Dialing Services for making millions of calls to cell phones during the 2012 election cycle without authorization. The citation required Dialing Services to certify within fifteen days that it had ceased making robocalls without permission. It also came with a clear warning from the FCC Enforcement Bureau that, “These citations set the stage for significant monetary penalties if violations continue,” including fines up to $16,000 per call. Finding that Dialing Services failed to comply with the requirements of the citation and continued its practices by making 184 additional calls, the FCC last week announced plans to fine Dialing Services $2,944,000 – the maximum penalty for those 184 calls.

Continue Reading FCC Fines Company $2.9 Million for Political Robocalls to Cell Phones

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By Chris Higby & Kurt Wimmer

Yesterday, the Federal Trade Commission held a forum on Mobile Security: Potential Threats and Solutions. The forum brought together academics, industry leaders, and security experts to discuss the security problems arising from the rapid adoption of mobile devices.

The first panel, consisting of security experts and researchers, gave a brief overview of mobile malware. They agreed that mobile malware infection rates are generally very low and that most malware accesses private information by using social engineering, rather than by exploiting technical flaws. Looking forward, Dan Guido, CEO of Trail of Bits, viewed the replacement of legitimate applications in app stores with malware versions as the most serious threat.

The second panel, consisting of security representatives from the major mobile operating systems (Microsoft’s Windows Phone, Google’s Android, Mozilla’s Firefox OS, Research In Motion’s BlackBerry, and Apple’s iOS), addressed how mobile platforms are designed with security in mind. Adrian Ludwig of Google advocated the use of install-time permissions, such as those found in Android, as a way to increase transparency to the user.  However, both Adrian Stone of Blackberry and Geir Olsen of Microsoft expressed skepticism as to the effectiveness of permissions for the average user. Ludwig also criticized Apple’s approach of restricting users to “curated” app stores as a restriction on user choice.

Continue Reading FTC Holds Forum Addressing Mobile Security