Anyone who has used the Internet in recent years is already familiar with the dreaded CAPTCHA boxes that are on most website logins to prevent spammers and fake accounts from signing up via online forms. The methods used to differentiate bots from humans have always varied, but the basics remain the same. A series of characters or images that are hard for a computer script to decipher along with a box asking a human to prove they are in fact human by filling in the information requested correctly prior to registering an account.
While CAPTCHA codes can be very annoying, particularly for anyone who has below average eyesight, they do serve an important function in limiting the reach of automated bot scripts. However, as bots have become more complex, the data and requests made by online forms for human verification have also started to become more difficult for humans to comply with as well. Now that may be changing dramatically, but with what may be an even bigger hidden cost thanks to Google.
Google has now announced that they believe they have devised a way to differentiate humans from bots without the use of any overt CAPTCHA script. Instead they intend to rely on user metrics by tracking everything from the movement pattern of your mouse on the page to the order of actions you take starting with the moment you reach the page and concluding with your attempt to register.
The system does seem to work with a high degree of accuracy, because bots for the moment do not move a mouse the same way a human would and are not interested in content on the page aside from the registration mechanism – while humans by contrasts usually take a more meandering route to the signup interface.
The danger here is that the data being collected about you is one more set of factors that Google will now be recording from all of your online interactions, and while it may seem innocuous to track the movements of your mouse, it opens the door to an ever-increasing amount of tracking that can quickly disintegrate any remaining shreds of privacy you still maintain online. Even worse, the bots are sure to be improved and will likely be able to trick these new protocols quickly, which begs the question – Is Google really trying to make signing up online easier for humans, or is Google simply using the inconvenience of online bots as a backdoor to usher in a slew of new ways for their company to track everything you do digitally?