Canada’s telecommunications regulator is bringing in new laws that will force phone companies to do a better job of identifying who is calling, to help users inundated by nuisance phone calls from telemarketers.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) said in a news release Tuesday that phone companies must now implement a technology on their networks that does a better job of weeding out so-called spoof phone calls, which are calls that look like familiar Canadian phone numbers they may want to answer, but are in fact unsolicited spam and nuisance calls from dodgy companies.
Earlier this month, CRTC chair Ian Scott announced that the regulator was going to compel the phone companies to do more about cracking down on such calls, which he said make up as much as 25 per cent of all phone calls on mobile networks in Canada right now.
“Most people likely perceive spoofed calls as a nuisance,” Scott said in a speech to a telecom conference earlier this month.
“The truth is, they’re more than that. They’re gateways for criminals to dupe hard-working people out of their money and their sensitive data. And they’re relentless,” he said, citing data from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission that suggests there are more than 2,100 robocalls being made to phone users in the U.S. every second of every day.
The technology, known as STIR/SHAKEN — which stands for Secure Telephony Identity Revisited/Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information Using toKENs — won’t completely block spoof phone calls, because it only works on calls that happen over an IP-voice network. But it will help slow the deluge.
“This new caller ID technology will empower Canadians to determine which calls are legitimate and worth answering, and which need to be treated with caution,” Scott said. “As more providers upgrade their networks, STIR/SHAKEN will undoubtedly reduce spoofing and help Canadians regain peace of mind when answering phone calls.”
On top of the IP-focused technology, some phone companies are already experimenting with artificial intelligence technology that allows them to filter out phone calls on their network that they suspect are fraudulent.
Scott noted in his speech that Bell Canada has been testing out such a system and managed to block 1.1 billion such calls on its network between July 2020 and October 2021.
Ultimately, the phone industry in Canada may move toward a system where users would see a red light or green light next to incoming calls: green for calls where the caller’s identity has been verified, and red for when it has not been.