Stories

A radical option to crack down on robocalls

Ad Hoc Labs app at work blocking robocalls
Photo: Courtesy of Ad Hoc Labs

The makers of Burner, an app that lets cellphone owners pass out alternate phone lines, has a new approach to tackling robocalls.

How it works ... The app, dubbed Firewall, takes a fairly drastic approach: sending all unknown calls to voicemail.

  • "It's not for everybody," acknowledges Greg Cohn, CEO of Ad Hoc Labs, which makes Burner and Firewall.
  • Firewall, which was developed at an internal Burner hackathon, works by forwarding all calls to the company.
  • The app then forwards back whitelisted numbers, while sending unknown callers to voicemail. Those known to be robocallers aren't even sent to voicemail.

Cohn isn't sure the app will take off among the broader public, but it proved to be a hit internally among employees fed up with unwanted calls.

  • "Obviously it's a big problem," Cohn said, noting the number of apps, bills and proposals out there aimed at tackling robocalls. "That's a pretty good testament to how much pain there is."

Details: The service debuts today for iOS, with a 14-day free trial. After that, it's $3.99 a month. If it takes off, Cohn said, there will be an Android version too.

Go deeper: Where all the robocalls are coming from