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Old 08-06-2013, 03:43 PM   #1
Alexander Turcic
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Aussies launch anti-CAPTCHA petition. Is it time to kill CAPTCHAs?

What do you hate more: spam or CAPTCHAs? At MobileRead, we've been using CAPTCHAs to prevent spammers from creating hundreds of fake accounts - every day! It doesn't stop all spam, but generally it does a good job of detecting the bad guys. Unfortunately, CAPTCHAs may also hinder people with disabilities, such as vision impairments, to the point that they cannot use a website. In Australia, various disability groups have now began to set up a petition encouraging major companies to get rid of CAPTCHA tests. From the petition:

Quote:
They’re frustrating for all internet users, but for me and millions of other people who are blind or vision impaired, CAPTCHA tests prevent us from engaging on the web and accessing online government services, because they can't be read by screen reading software

I have been blind for about seven years and CAPTCHA has fast become one of my most hated aspects of the web. [...]

It is time to kill CAPTCHA once and for all.

I hope you will join my organisation, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) and fellow non-profit disability advocacy groups such as Blind Citizens Australia, Media Access Australia, Able Australia and the Australian Deafblind Council in calling on organisations big and small to phase out the use of CAPTCHA.
To be debated in parliament the petition will require 10,000 or more signatures.

[via IT News]
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Old 08-06-2013, 04:58 PM   #2
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CAPTCHAs should always include an audio option. With that, the number of people affected would be very small, and I'm sure there can be a workaround for those too.
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Old 08-06-2013, 05:06 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jineapple View Post
CAPTCHAs should always include an audio option. With that, the number of people affected would be very small, and I'm sure there can be a workaround for those too.
Audio isn't the answer. Often, it doesn't work well - or at all. It relies on the user having speakers attached and switched on (not an issue with laptops and tablets, but often a problem for desktop machines). It might be difficult to hear the audio in a noisy environment. And it could be inappropriate in a quiet environment.

I am neither blind nor visually impaired, but I hate Captcha as much as anyone - although I admit I don't know what a good alternative would be.

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Old 08-06-2013, 05:25 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike L View Post
Audio isn't the answer. Often, it doesn't work well - or at all. It relies on the user having speakers attached and switched on (not an issue with laptops and tablets, but often a problem for desktop machines). It might be difficult to hear the audio in a noisy environment. And it could be inappropriate in a quiet environment.

I am neither blind nor visually impaired, but I hate Captcha as much as anyone - although I admit I don't know what a good alternative would be.

Mike
I would expect that most people using screen readers and such would probably have speakers on and attached.

What about math solutions, or asking for the 4th (or nth) word in the article? Or various other options. (When I had a personal blog, it asked for "four plus seven" to be entered as a number in order to post a comment. I wouldn't go as far as asking for the 8th digit of pi, but asking for the ones digit when multiplying 3 times 9 shouldn't be a problem, right? Or, you could have one that lists a shape, then asks how many sides are on the shape.

Another good one, could be to ask the user to answer a question from the post they are replying to. That could be pretty useful, since a spammer would have to actually read the post before replying.....
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Old 08-06-2013, 05:46 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by TuxGirl View Post
I would expect that most people using screen readers and such would probably have speakers on and attached.
Good point.
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What about math solutions, or asking for the 4th (or nth) word in the article?
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Originally Posted by Mike L View Post
I am neither blind nor visually impaired, but I hate Captcha as much as anyone - although I admit I don't know what a good alternative would be.
I don't hate CAPTCHA because I think it does an important job well, and in the case of ReCAPTCHA illustrated above, it does double good by helping to digitize books. It is frustrating sometimes though.

I'll apologize for sounding insensitive, but disabilities deserve reasonable accommodation, not changes that inconvenience the rest of the world.
Any petition like the one cited here had better include a better alternative than CAPTCHA for stopping spam if they want my support in eliminating it. Otherwise, it's just not a reasonable request.

The math and context ideas are good, and I know some sites do use such methods, but has anyone tracked how well they work compared to CAPTCHA?

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Old 08-06-2013, 05:49 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TuxGirl View Post
I would expect that most people using screen readers and such would probably have speakers on and attached.

What about math solutions, or asking for the 4th (or nth) word in the article? Or various other options. (When I had a personal blog, it asked for "four plus seven" to be entered as a number in order to post a comment. I wouldn't go as far as asking for the 8th digit of pi, but asking for the ones digit when multiplying 3 times 9 shouldn't be a problem, right? Or, you could have one that lists a shape, then asks how many sides are on the shape.

Another good one, could be to ask the user to answer a question from the post they are replying to. That could be pretty useful, since a spammer would have to actually read the post before replying.....
Math doesn't work because that's what computers do best.

Asking a question requires a delay as a human has to check their answer.
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Old 08-06-2013, 05:52 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Hotrootsoup View Post
Math doesn't work because that's what computers do best.
No, interpreting the phrasing of the problems is the test here, not the math.
Quote:
Asking a question requires a delay as a human has to check their answer.
No, an algorithm can come up with the question and answers automatically, and again, interpreting the phrasing and presentation would be the test.

A spam program will eventually defeat these methods, but they will eventually defeat CAPTCHA as well. Machine vision, OCR and image processing are improving all the time.

Last edited by ApK; 08-06-2013 at 05:55 PM.
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Old 08-06-2013, 07:08 PM   #8
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One of the most popular spam tools is XRumer. From what's been said elsewhere and from what we've seen, CAPTCHAs like ReCaptcha can be cracked, either automatically (through OCR/averaging) or semi-automatically (through third parties who offer the solving of captures within seconds through APIs). Text-captchas, too, are easily cracked. From what we've seen, users of said spam tools were given credits for any solved text-captcha that is then stored in a global database. Easy permutation (simple math problems changing digits) is also solved by the tool.
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Old 08-06-2013, 10:14 PM   #9
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I'll apologize for sounding insensitive, but disabilities deserve reasonable accommodation, not changes that inconvenience the rest of the world.
Government websites, however, should be accessible to everyone who needs those services, not "the majority of consumers."

Quote:
Any petition like the one cited here had better include a better alternative than CAPTCHA for stopping spam if they want my support in eliminating it. Otherwise, it's just not a reasonable request.
An addition to CAPTCHA would work--some improvements on the current audio system, or the math-etc puzzles suggested. ("Which is bigger: an elephant or a mouse?" "Which of these is a color: round, red, glitter, huge, seven?")

The idea that accessibility is a special feature for a tiny fraction of web-users is what needs to be changed. We don't often think of features like "logos are not constantly blinking" as an accessibility feature, but it is, and many of us remember having to teach commercial sites that the hard way. Not long ago, websites were often built with the assumption that the browser window had to be 1086 pixels wide or you couldn't navigate the site--smartphones killed that approach to webdesign.

"People who can't use the website with its current arrangement" should always be a concern. It shouldn't matter if the cause is a disability, an older computer they can't afford to upgrade, a school environment (plenty of student computers don't have sound available at all), or some other reason.

On top of that, businesses and especially governments are required to make their services available to people with disabilities; they do get some exceptions for extreme hardships or totally incompatible purposes (amusement park rides don't need to hold wheelchairs), but they don't get to just say "but it would cost more to implement the other method."
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Old 08-06-2013, 10:30 PM   #10
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My vision is fine as long as I'm wearing glasses and my hearing is also fine but I detest CAPTCHAS. I have trouble reading the misbegotten things and, much of the time, can't understand the audio clues. I'm all for banning the stupid things.
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Old 08-07-2013, 12:18 AM   #11
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My vision is fine as long as I'm wearing glasses and my hearing is also fine but I detest CAPTCHAS. I have trouble reading the misbegotten things and, much of the time, can't understand the audio clues. I'm all for banning the stupid things.

Come up with a better alternative, because I assure you, you will hate weeding through the 1000 get rich quick offers and Rolex copy adds and warez site links to find the next real message in a thread even more.
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Old 08-07-2013, 12:19 AM   #12
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I'm okay with captchas especially the ReCaptcha ones that I find to be easily readable. However sites use other ones that I find impossible to read, with the numbers and letters squished into an indistinguishable mess. I've had captchas that I've gotten wrong more than 5 times. That is nuts.

As someone who has run websites with commenting features, captchas are a necessary evil to keeping your site from being overrun with spam. We were even forced to put them onto our "Contact Us" page, because we were getting hundreds of spam emails a day, obviously computer generated and entered.
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Old 08-07-2013, 12:27 AM   #13
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I dislike captchas because they don't eliminate ambiguities. Hard to read, so you can't tell "5" from "S" or "P" from "p"
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Old 08-07-2013, 12:31 AM   #14
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Government websites, however, should be accessible to everyone who needs those services, not "the majority of consumers."
I worked on some web site in the Navy and indeed, US government accessibility requirements are quite strict.

But nothing is accessible to 'everyone.' Or at least 'accessible' in some cases might mean requiring someone to help them. I'm sorry, but they are called "disabilities" for a reason. There are some things you are not able to do.

Quote:
"People who can't use the website with its current arrangement" should always be a concern. It shouldn't matter if the cause is a disability, an older computer they can't afford to upgrade, a school environment (plenty of student computers don't have sound available at all), or some other reason.
Stifling the quality or advancement of the service by being forced to accommodate too much is not a good solution in any field.
However...
Quote:
Not long ago, websites were often built with the assumption that the browser window had to be 1086 pixels wide or you couldn't navigate the site--smartphones killed that approach to webdesign.
Indeed, that brought about genuine improvements in content and service delivery and presentation. It would be great if all accessibility-increasing changes could be like that.
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Old 08-07-2013, 12:33 AM   #15
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I dislike captchas because they don't eliminate ambiguities. Hard to read, so you can't tell "5" from "S" or "P" from "p"
You do realize that's kind of the point, right?
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