STIR/SHAKEN. No. That’s not a comment on the choices you have for the perfect martini. STIR/SHAKEN refers to a technology that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is requiring of all telephone providers to combat robocalls, those recorded telephone messages and text messages that are the scourge of many and which have become seemingly more and more ubiquitous. Most robocalls are forms of telemarketing and can be attempts to sell automobile warranties or health insurance plans or are offers to assist with student loan repayment. Such calls are generally illegal unless the caller was given express permission to contact the person through the use of robocalls or recorded messages. Other robocalls that are not considered to be illegal include purely informational messages, debt collection calls, political calls, and some calls from charitable organizations. Consumers who no longer wanted to receive these calls could add their telephone number to the National Do Not Call Registry, a listing managed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which attempts to stem the proliferation of unwanted calls received by consumers from telemarketing companies. Unfortunately, robocalls are much more difficult to stop. Calls can be blocked through the use of call-blocking and labeling resources available from phone carriers as well as some features that are built in to smartphones. However, spoofing makes blocking calls much more difficult. (Spoofing is a scam in which a caller disguises their identity by using software that allows them to choose which number should appear on a person’s caller ID. In most cases, the calls appear to have originated from a local telephone number, sometimes even from a number that the person recognizes.)

In an effort to stop these unwanted, and often illegal, calls, the FCC is requiring all providers to implement STIR/SHAKEN in the Internet Protocol (IP) portions of their networks by June 30, 2021. In simple terms, STIR/SHAKEN is a caller ID technology that validates calls traveling through a network and ensures that the telephone number appearing on the caller ID display is, in fact, from that number. In theory, it is designed to reduce the frequency of caller ID spoofing and allow law enforcement personnel to more easily identify the source of illegal robocalls. In addition, the FCC required all providers to file certifications with the Robocall Mitigation Database that they have implemented the STIR/SHAKEN protocol or some equivalent program. Moreover, the FCC has implemented some anti-robocall initiatives, such as the issuance of the largest robocall fine in FCC history (to a Texas company no less), the delivery of cease-and-desist letters to voice providers who have violated FCC guidelines, the creation of a Robocall Response team, and an interest in renewed partnerships with the FTC, Department of Justice, and the National Association of State Attorneys General.