man screaming at robocalls

AI-generated voices in robocalls are illegal, rules FCC

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced that calls made with voices generated with the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be considered “artificial” under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Effective immediately, that makes robocalls that implement voice cloning technology and target consumers illegal.

Robocalls are automated phone calls, often associated with scams, which can be a nuisance to individuals and businesses alike. Some of these calls use AI generated voices of trusted celebrities to gain the trust of the target, in a technique known as voice cloning.

Robocallers not only sell products or services in an annoying way, they’ve also been known to be part of political misinformation campaigns as well.

The unanimous ruling by the FCC provides state attorneys general across the country with new tools to go after the people behind these nefarious robocalls. Many of these calls would be considered illegal anyway because they are scams or fraudulent, but now the fact that they use AI generated voices alone is enough for them to be considered illegal.

The FCC says it received a letter signed by attorneys general from 26 states asking the agency to act on restricting the use of AI in marketing phone calls.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel stated:

“Bad actors are using AI-generated voices in unsolicited robocalls to extort vulnerable family members, imitate celebrities, and misinform voters. We’re putting the fraudsters behind these robocalls on notice.”

From now on, those who wish to send robocalls must obtain prior express consent from the called party before making a call that utilizes artificial or prerecorded voice simulated or generated through AI technology.

Violations of the TCPA are subject to stiff civil penalties. Abusers can anticipate fines of up to $1,500 per incident without a cap on damages.

On January 30, 2024, the FCC said its previous actions against international robocalls appear to have reduced apparently illegal robocall traffic across multiple networks. If this new announcement leads to an even bigger reduction, you won’t hear us complaining.

What to do if you answer a robocall

When you receive a call from someone outside your contact list only to hear a recorded message playing back at you, that’s a robocall.

  1. Hang up as soon as you realize that it is an automated robocall.
  2. Do not engage with the call at all.
  3. Don’t follow any instructions.
  4. Avoid giving away any personal information.
  5. Report the robocall.
    • If you’ve lost money to a phone scam or have information about the company or scammer who called you, tell the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
    • If you didn’t lose money and just want to report a call, use the streamlined reporting form at DoNotCall.gov
    • If you believe you received an illegal call or text, report it to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

It is important to not engage in any conversation or respond to any prompts to minimize the risk of fraud. Even the smallest snippets of your recorded voice could allow for voice-cloning and used in scams against you or your loved ones.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pieter Arntz

Malware Intelligence Researcher

Was a Microsoft MVP in consumer security for 12 years running. Can speak four languages. Smells of rich mahogany and leather-bound books.