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Making the Case for the Value of the Robocall

June 10, 2015
By Steve Anderson - Contributing Telemarketing Software Writer

Most of us have been on the receiving end of a robocall at one point or another, and generally, most aren't happy about it. These automated calls make it all but impossible to assert our status on Do Not Call lists, and worse yet, have no compunctions about time of day or any other such matter. But FiveThirtyEight founder Nate Silver—according to a report from DC Inno—recently brought some word to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC (News - Alert)) saying robocalls aren't the evil many believe, and are in fact necessary in some cases.

The DC Inno report detailed Silver describing a world in which political scientists and a variety of other researchers lose access to valuable data without the robocall. Silver is widely regarded as a highly-accurate prognosticator when it comes to elections, so hearing him talk about such matters is a cause to pay attention to. Silver noted that the surveys and polls that robocalls conduct provide most of the information that goes into statistical models that allow for the most accurate predictions.

Without the robocalls — a future which may well happen under what Silver reportedly described as “too broad” attempts to stop such things — a huge source of data would be lost. Legitimate survey calls would be eliminated along with the pesky sales calls. Some here might note that this isn't such a problem; after all, pollsters can go back to the old methods of hiring actual human beings to conduct such calls, but Silver seems to dismiss this concept, noting that without robocalls, it might be that surveys would become “more expensive” to conduct. Silver's not alone on this point, either, as other research firms like Nielsen are getting involved.

Thus Silver suggests that the FCC should be chasing “wardrobe malfunctions” instead, staying off the backs of pollsters who already have it rough as it is. Silver reportedly noted that the polls serve as a vital check against those in power, by making it clear what the citizenry that the elected officials purportedly represent think about the issues of the day.

Silver, for the most part, would be right if it weren't for the existence of one thing: the federal Do Not Call list. The very people Silver seems to claim would be disenfranchised by the move against robocalling are already against robocalling in large numbers; people don't want to be randomly called at home, and have specifically signed up on a federal government list to avoid such things. When the Do Not Call list was established, it wasn't called the Do Not Call Unless You're Seeking My Opinion About Important Social Issues list. It's just the “Do Not Call” list. That random robotic call—and here I speak from experience—is just as annoying whether it's about double-hung windows or my stance on fiscal policy. Besides, with the growing technological options of the day, surely Silver can find another way to conduct these polls; why not put these online, and allow people to come to same as is convenient? He'd get the desired information without the intrusiveness of a ringing phone.

Still, the issue of whether robocalling should be allowed or not is a divisive one at best, and complex. Making exceptions is always difficult because most everyone wants an exception made for one particular sacred cow or another. But with the FCC considering the matter already, we may get resolution on this sooner than expected.