I wrote an article for ReadWriteWeb earlier this summer about a way to replace those annoying CAPTCHAs with a miniature game. They are annoying because Web site operators put them in place to check for bots or spammers who are trying to gain access, such as setting up a bunch of accounts automatically. Computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University developed them in 2000 and they have been popping up pretty much everywhere online ever since.
Many spammers use various methods to defeat them, including paying slave wages to real people to input values or through the use of special optical character recognition software. As the bad guys are getting better at defeating them, the CAPTCHA tests are getting harder to read and parse out.
In my article for RWW, I mentioned Play Thru, which invites users to solve a game, such as figuring out what ingredients are used to make pancakes. One programmer wrote about a way around the Play Thru system here.
There are other attempts to try to perfect this genre. First is this comic from XKCD that attempts to play on arcane human knowledge.
In this post on the Sophos Naked Security blog, there are some pretty funny examples of really difficult tests that most of us would have a hard time passing.
But last week there was another innovation, what is being labeled as CAPTCHAs with a conscience. The idea, from the Swedish activist organization Civil Rights Defenders, is to pose a political question asking the viewer how a loaded question (prisoners being tortured, or gay-bashing) makes them feel? Of course, soon we will have computers that can correctly interpret human feelings, but it is an intriguing thought nonetheless.
How do you feel about this approach? And can you prove that you are really human when you reply?