SMS Spam: Google Voice is Helpful

That we can now report SMS spam to various wireless carriers is a good thing, but the process is still overly complicated and I'm doubtful that enough people take the time to report SMS spam received. I have Verizon Wireless, and the spam reporting robot gets confused and, for example, won't accept a spam report about a message received from a short code. One hopes that gets addressed at some point in the future, and that something, somewhere happens to give us end consumers some confidence that something useful is actually being done with the complaints received.

Things are a bit different with Google Voice. I'm a heavy Google Voice user, for both my office and cell numbers. For my office phone, it is slickly configured to follow me around, rings different phones at different times of day, and makes calls go automatically to voice mail without being told, when someone calls after bedtime. I now use this number as my primary number, and let the system figure out where I am or what phone to ring at the appropriate time.

An unexpected benefit of this is Google Voice's reputation/spam reporting functionality. This past weekend, I got SMS spammed (at my two GV numbers) from two different phone numbers -- (973) 722-9386 and (704) 418-6196 -- clearly the same spammer, shilling some sort of co-reg offer spam, leading to the same content hosted on two different domains, bestbuywin.com and bestbuy-winner.com, offering a "free" Best Buy gift card, if I just sign up for all these different things offered, some of which will for sure end up costing me money. This one seems to include a tracking reference to an affiliate program run by somebody called CPA Kingdom.

It took all of about 10 seconds to select "this is spam" in the Google Voice app, to tell Google that these texts are unwanted. When you report a call, a voice mail, or a text message as spammy, your report is fed into Google Voice's Global Spam Filtering database. What reputation is for email, this thing is for SMS messages and phone calls. Report them as spam, they're blocked from contacting me again, and if enough people vote, they end up blocked from contacting anybody using the spam filtering. Just like email reputation systems and anti-spam filters.

At some point it wouldn't surprise me to start seeing Google incorporate domain reputation data extracted from SMS spam reports, or figuring out how to cross reference SMS/phone call spam reports and email spam reports, to build a broader reputational view of messages from or referencing certain phone numbers. I hope that day comes soon. And that mobile carriers will someday make spam reporting more like how it is on Google Voice.

1 comments:

Matt said...

Al, I got the same exact SMS spam message too. How annoying since it came to my mobile number which also costs me money to send/receive text messages! I agree that the mobile carriers need a better spam reporting system. Also it would be nice to reverse the charges of spam and other unwanted text messages.