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29 Sep, 2019 17:08

Snowden v Captchas: Unnecessary tests are ‘user abuse’, NSA whistleblower says

Snowden v Captchas: Unnecessary tests are ‘user abuse’, NSA whistleblower says

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden says websites are abusive when they punish users who deny tracking cookies by administering unnecessary captcha tests, and Twitter users were quick to agree.

Snowden was responding to a tweet by a cryptographic and security engineering employee of Apple, Frederic Jacobs, who called out websites for penalizing people who are trying to protect their privacy.

“Having a lot of reCAPTCHA prompts feels like punishment for blocking tracking cookies. If you maintain a website that uses them, you’re penalizing people who are protecting their privacy,” said Jacobs. 

The combination of punishment, privacy and tracking was clearly enough to entice Snowden, who weighed in by calling unnecessary captcha usage “user abuse.” 

Fellow Twitter users joined the conversation to confirm that “it’s the worst”, and to complain about how prolific the practice is online. Many shared their irritation at Google using the system to train AI via the free labor of internet users who have had to take the test.

A CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) is a program aimed at protecting a website from bot attacks by testing human responses, and many versions of it install a cookie on your computer. A reCaptcha is a similar system, but uses the results of the test to develop machine learning or to digitize books.

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