New iOS 13 feature uses Siri smarts to thwart spam calls

Posted:
in iOS edited June 3
Apple is looking to combat pesky spam callers in iOS 13 with a new Siri-powered feature that weeds out and silences calls from unknown numbers, sending them directly to voicemail.

iOS 13
Apple SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi onstage at WWDC 2019.


Word of the optional setting is secreted away deep within Apple's iOS 13 feature preview webpage, published after the company's Worldwide Developers Conference keynote on Monday.

Aptly named "Silence unknown callers," the feature protects users from spammers, an increasing nuisance to cellphone owners in the U.S. and beyond. A bane for many, spam callers are utilizing increasingly complex methods like number spoofing and automated services to bypass third-party screening tools and trick users into answering.

Apple's solution does not eliminate the annoying calls, but it does offer users some respite.

When enabled, Silence unknown callers "uses Siri intelligence to allow calls to ring your phone from numbers in Contacts, Mail, and Messages," Apple says. Calls from numbers not recognized by Siri are automatically routed to voicemail.

While the brief description fails to detail the feature's mechanics, it is believed that calls from strangers will not prompt an audio alert or trigger a haptic event, allowing users to review voicemails -- and voicemail transcripts -- at their leisure. The calls are also unlikely to result in an onscreen notification beyond receipt of a voicemail, if one is recorded.

The feature might not be workable for some iPhone owners as it effectively puts a blanket ban on calls from strangers. For users afflicted by serial spam calls, however, the concession might be worth the peace and quiet.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 28
    ktappektappe Posts: 770member
    Why would this require Siri? It's simply referencing the incoming # against a database. It's extremely straightforward from an engineering perspective.
    charlesgrestoysandmeGeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 28
    flydogflydog Posts: 328member
    Guess you missed this part:

    When enabled, Silence unknown callers "uses Siri intelligence to allow calls to ring your phone from numbers in Contacts, Mail, and Messages.
    forgot usernamerepressthisSoundJudgmentRayz2016docno42watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 28
    EsquireCatsEsquireCats Posts: 618member
    ktappe said:
    Why would this require Siri? It's simply referencing the incoming # against a database. It's extremely straightforward from an engineering perspective.
    Siri is the name of a variety of AI-based technologies. In iOS12 "siri" reviews your mail and messages for data that looks like phone numbers, email address and the like and presents these to the user as needed. For example when receiving a call from a number not in your contacts, Siri may furnish a message "Maybe: PERSONS NAME", where that name has been automatically gathered from a email/message source. Similarly these contact details can be easily added to existing or new contacts.

    This new feature likely takes that existing iOS 12 capability and provides it with the skill to automatically reject unfamiliar numbers/facetimes. There is an expectation that the feature does a little more to thwart spam calls, since Apple would be able to gather a statistical model of spoofed phone numbers.
    edited June 4 netroxrepressthisneilmdewmekirkgraywatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 28
    hagarhagar Posts: 113member
    ktappe said:
    Why would this require Siri? It's simply referencing the incoming # against a database. It's extremely straightforward from an engineering perspective.
    Siri is the name of a variety of AI-based technologies. In iOS12 "siri" reviews your mail and messages for data that looks like phone numbers, email address and the like and presents these to the user as needed. For example when receiving a call from a number not in your contacts, Siri may furnish a message "Maybe: PERSONS NAME", where that name has been automatically gathered from a email/message source. Similarly these contact details can be easily added to existing or new contacts.

    This new feature likely takes that existing iOS 12 capability and provides it with the skill to automatically reject unfamiliar numbers/facetimes. There is an expectation that the feature does a little more to thwart spam calls, since Apple would be able to gather a statistical model of spoofed phone numbers.
    Collecting phone numbers from several sources and reference that list when a call comes in. Not sure if that counts as AI, seems more like a marketing gimmick to call it Siri.
    toysandmeGeorgeBMac
  • Reply 5 of 28
    kevin keekevin kee Posts: 1,048member
    I would call the ability to distinguish a certain pattern (in this case phone numbers and its related references as opposed to any random numbers) an AI since it requires a neural logic learning.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 28
    Mark62Mark62 Posts: 4unconfirmed, member
    This reminds me that only two carriers in the U.K. provide visual voicemail and mine is not one of them. Very annoying.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 28
    FlytrapFlytrap Posts: 11member
    ktappe said:
    Why would this require Siri? It's simply referencing the incoming # against a database. It's extremely straightforward from an engineering perspective.
    It needs Siri because it is not just limited referencing numbers in your contacts database.

    In the same same way that Siri makes recommendations about appointments, new contacts, reminds you to call people back, etc. Siri is used to reference the incoming number across numerous possible prior contacts through which you might have had an interaction with the callers such as:
    • You may have exchanged a few emails with them a while ago, but did not add their details, to your contacts database
    • You may have called the number a few times recently, but did not add the number to your contacts
    • The caller’s number range may be within your corporate PBX number range making it likely to be business related.
    • Etc.
    More importantly, how you respond to numbers found in bills, marketing brochures, discount coupons, travel itineraries hotel, car hire and airline booking, etc. that Siri may find in your inbox, notes, documents, spreadsheets, etc. is different to how the next person would... So some ML to help the AI figure out what works for you and may work differently for me is important.

    Otherwise it will simply be a dumb mechanical reference lookup that treats every unknown call in exactly the same way for everybody. That may be good enough for you, but it is going to be quickly disabled when it starts screening out important calls from patients, investment brokers, journalists, work colleagues, clients. etc.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 28
    toysandmetoysandme Posts: 215member
    This problem would not exist if caught spammers faced death penalty. 
    TomEJaiOh81dewmedocno42chasmwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 9 of 28
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 743member
    There's a solution a million times simpler than this, which I have explained 100 times in various places, and nobody sees its value. That is, when the caller is "connected" the caller is faced with an audio "captcha". Depending upon the caller's actions, the caller may end up in voice mail, or getting disconnected, or getting the phone to ring for the recipient to answer. You don't need a contacts database for this. You don't need Siri. You don't need a "do not call" registry. The first person who invents this will be an instant billionaire, but apparently nobody wants free billions. I have been trying to promote this solution since 1993.
    edited June 4
  • Reply 10 of 28
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,907member
    flydog said:
    Guess you missed this part:

    When enabled, Silence unknown callers "uses Siri intelligence to allow calls to ring your phone from numbers in Contacts, Mail, and Messages.
    Apple is reading your mail? /s

    22july2013 said:
    There's a solution a million times simpler than this, which I have explained 100 times in various places, and nobody sees its value. That is, when the caller is "connected" the caller is faced with an audio "captcha". Depending upon the caller's actions, the caller may end up in voice mail, or getting disconnected, or getting the phone to ring for the recipient to answer. You don't need a contacts database for this. You don't need Siri. You don't need a "do not call" registry. The first person who invents this will be an instant billionaire, but apparently nobody wants free billions. I have been trying to promote this solution since 1993.
    There's already a solution very similar to what you're advocating. 
    And it all happens on device preserving privacy. 
    https://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/google-call-screening-how-to-use/
    edited June 4
  • Reply 11 of 28
    kevin kee said:
    I would call the ability to distinguish a certain pattern (in this case phone numbers and its related references as opposed to any random numbers) an AI since it requires a neural logic learning.
    In the programming world, we call that a "regular expression". :wink: 

    Seriously though, the variety of ways in which phone numbers can be represented in text and email can be a challenge for automated systems.  I don't think it's a stretch to claim "AI" is at work to find them.  Simple AI perhaps, but AI nonetheless.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 28
    tomkarltomkarl Posts: 237member
    There's a solution a million times simpler than this, which I have explained 100 times in various places, and nobody sees its value. That is, when the caller is "connected" the caller is faced with an audio "captcha". Depending upon the caller's actions, the caller may end up in voice mail, or getting disconnected, or getting the phone to ring for the recipient to answer. You don't need a contacts database for this. You don't need Siri. You don't need a "do not call" registry. The first person who invents this will be an instant billionaire, but apparently nobody wants free billions. I have been trying to promote this solution since 1993.
    Two things:

    1. everyone loves captcha - legitimate callers would be rightly annoyed.

    2. Stop talking about your billionaire idea and just do it already. 
    docno42Wgkruegerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 28
    There's a solution a million times simpler than this, which I have explained 100 times in various places, and nobody sees its value. That is, when the caller is "connected" the caller is faced with an audio "captcha". Depending upon the caller's actions, the caller may end up in voice mail, or getting disconnected, or getting the phone to ring for the recipient to answer. You don't need a contacts database for this. You don't need Siri. You don't need a "do not call" registry. The first person who invents this will be an instant billionaire, but apparently nobody wants free billions. I have been trying to promote this solution since 1993.
    Doesn't need to be invented because it already exists. My old VOIP provider had an audio challenge when the number was unknown or from a number that was considered spam. The reason it wouldn't work enough to make anyone a millionaire, much less a billionaire, is that as soon as more than a tiny percent of people started using it, it would be trivial to add voice-to-text on the calling line to decode the audio captcha.

    The Siri solution is exactly what I've been looking for... If I know the contact, let them through. If I don't, straight to voicemail. Hopefully I can tell the system to ONLY look at my contacts. The step beyond that is adding spam features to the speech-to-text that is part of voicemail. If the message matches some database, auto-delete the voicemail.
    watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 14 of 28
    There's a solution a million times simpler than this, which I have explained 100 times in various places, and nobody sees its value. That is, when the caller is "connected" the caller is faced with an audio "captcha". Depending upon the caller's actions, the caller may end up in voice mail, or getting disconnected, or getting the phone to ring for the recipient to answer. You don't need a contacts database for this. You don't need Siri. You don't need a "do not call" registry. The first person who invents this will be an instant billionaire, but apparently nobody wants free billions. I have been trying to promote this solution since 1993.
    Well, I guess Google gets to keep those Billions they so richly deserve... since they have had Caller Screening on their latest Pixel devices for some time now.
  • Reply 15 of 28
    airnerdairnerd Posts: 664member
    I don't like sending to voicemail anyone not in contacts.  I wish Apple could allow me a sandbox to set rules allowed to call me.  The three I would put in first:

    1)Send calls from "Unknown" to voicemail
    2)Block calls from "No Caller ID"
    3)Support wildcards in number blocking (eg: allow me to block all the spam calls spoofing my area code and next three digits)


    That #3 is the worst.  Every day I get at least 5 calls from (214)555-xxxx type spammers
    beowulfschmidtwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 28
    I’ve been using a similar system for months and I love it. 

    1) go to ringtone store and buy a silent ringtone for $1.29

    2) set that silent ringtone as your default. Now when someone calls your phone it won’t ring. 

    3) open each of your contacts (at least, the ones you like) and change their ringtone to a real ringtone. I had less than 100 contacts, so it didn’t take too long. 

    Yes, some spammers will leave a voicemail, but you can delete and/or listen on your schedule, not theirs. 


    edited June 4 watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 28
    EsquireCatsEsquireCats Posts: 618member
    hagar said:
    ktappe said:
    Why would this require Siri? It's simply referencing the incoming # against a database. It's extremely straightforward from an engineering perspective.
    Siri is the name of a variety of AI-based technologies. In iOS12 "siri" reviews your mail and messages for data that looks like phone numbers, email address and the like and presents these to the user as needed. For example when receiving a call from a number not in your contacts, Siri may furnish a message "Maybe: PERSONS NAME", where that name has been automatically gathered from a email/message source. Similarly these contact details can be easily added to existing or new contacts.

    This new feature likely takes that existing iOS 12 capability and provides it with the skill to automatically reject unfamiliar numbers/facetimes. There is an expectation that the feature does a little more to thwart spam calls, since Apple would be able to gather a statistical model of spoofed phone numbers.
    Collecting phone numbers from several sources and reference that list when a call comes in. Not sure if that counts as AI, seems more like a marketing gimmick to call it Siri.
    The means in which Siri collects those numbers (and other information aforementioned) is indeed AI. People write numbers in email all the time and phone numbers differ in format from region to region, Siri is smart enough to realise when it's likely a phone number rather than another kind of number e.g The ability to differentiate a parcel tracking code, or an account number, or a number from a pasted budget. Siri is also smart enough to link the number to an appropriate label, so if fax, mobile and land line details are provided - Siri is smart enough to label those appropriately.

    These smarts are AI. Merely looking up a list is not AI, that's a straight forward database query, did you think Apple were just now introducing a feature that has been around since the invention of caller-id? 

    As I've (and many others) have already noted, it's not limited to phone numbers, and has been significantly improved over the years since the original concept of "data detectors".


    jony0
  • Reply 18 of 28
    How does it know it os spam call? Those numbers most of the time belong to legitmate service subscribers and call comes from someone else. I checked that tents of times by caling back and speaking with person about use of his or her number. They were suprized. Similarily I caught spammers on using legitimate Verizon customer service number as well.
  • Reply 19 of 28
    MikeLVMikeLV Posts: 3unconfirmed, member
    I don't know why there is no feature on iPhone to block callers with no phone number or labeled by caller ID as "Unknown". Those are the biggest annoyances. Block by area code would also be nice.
    edited June 4
  • Reply 20 of 28
    linkmanlinkman Posts: 923member
    I’ve been using a similar system for months and I love it. 

    1) go to ringtone store and buy a silent ringtone for $1.29

    2) set that silent ringtone as your default. Now when someone calls your phone it won’t ring. 

    3) open each of your contacts (at least, the ones you like) and change their ringtone to a real ringtone. I had less than 100 contacts, so it didn’t take too long. 

    Yes, some spammers will leave a voicemail, but you can delete and/or listen on your schedule, not theirs. 


    I proposed for years that iOS allow a default ringtone for notifications from people in your contacts list. Set the default for others to the silent one. For those of us with 1000+ contacts it is extremely difficult to manage with your method. At least we will have something maintainable with iOS 13.
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