Congress has passed the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2010 that states…
It shall be unlawful for any person within the United States, in connection with any real time voice communication service, regardless of the technology or network utilized, to cause any caller ID service to transmit misleading or inaccurate caller ID information, with the intent to defraud or deceive.
The act goes on to state that it does not prevent one from having their phone number blocked from being transmitted by caller ID services.
I have seen several instances of calls appearing on my caller ID as coming from cell phones that turn out to be calls from telemarketers. Usually the call appears with the word “CELL” proceeding a phone number. Obviously telemarketers are trying to avoid call screening with the belief people are more likely to pick up a call coming in from a cell phone rather than one showing an 800 number. I believe the law passed by Congress is intended to make that practice illegal.
When I first heard about the law I was concerned about how it might affect Google Voice, which one can configure to send the Google Voice number to caller ID rather than the actual phone number of the cell phone the call is originating from. While I am not a legal expert, I think the key words in the act relevant to Google Voice are the last seven, “..with the intent to defraud or deceive.” I am providing people with my Google Voice number in a manner no different than if I bought a new cell phone service with a new phone number. Therefore, when someone sees my Google Voice number they know the call is from me because they recognize the number, and only the phone number is sent to caller ID. I have no intent to defraud or deceive someone when I make a call, and I prove that by providing the Google Voice number as my phone number. It is not my intent to say that Google Voice couldn’t be used by someone to defraud or deceive, but then the law doesn’t appear to me to apply to a service or technology, it explicitly states that “It shall be unlawful for any person…”.
In the end I think that the Truth in Caller ID Act is a step towards reigning in telemarketers who bombard our phones every day, to the extend that they have completely changed how we handle phone calls. When I was a child there was no caller ID nor answering machines and you wouldn’t think of not answering the phone when it rang because surely someone was calling you that you actually wanted to talk to. Today, whenever the phone rings at my house we look at the caller ID, and if we don’t recognize the number, we let the call go to the answering machine. In a way telemarketers have us hiding from our phones and I think that is a shame. If Congress really wanted to curb telemarketing, they ought to make it illegal for companies to sell phone numbers and to make the use of our phone numbers by companies completely an opt-in service where we explicitly give companies permission to call our phone numbers.