Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Eulogy for CAPTCHA

Abigail Rowe (via Nick Heer):

So this is how we prove our humanity, by TYPEing-IN the dirty-sock arithmetic on a Tide-branded CAPTCHA. “Prove you’re human.” It’s so blah, so crass—not even a please. And the worst part: CAPTCHA was supposed to be a good thing! Reducing spam? Good! Halting the internet bot takeover? Good! Improving AI technology? Good, hopefully! Stopping one bot from buying up all the whatever and reselling it 500%? Yes! Good again! But CAPTCHA isn’t so straightforward. And through it’s question, and our often incorrect answers, a darker, more dysfunctional portrait of the internet and the economy behind it seems to tip its hand.


As hard as CAPTCHAs are on some, they’ve become much easier for the bots they’re meant to keep out. Christopher Romero, a software developer, spoke with me about CAPTCHA’s history and a bit about the program’s possible future. Romero sees a shift by the major companies towards two-factor authentication to filter out sign-up spam. This is not, again, because the tech companies are questioning the broader implications of the “are you a robot” shtick, or even because of the problems they pose for people who have trouble seeing, or reading English. The robots are just getting smarter. They can read those dumb squiggly lines better than we can.

Comments RSS · Twitter

Leave a Comment