Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Captcha or Gotcha

The Chronicle of Higher Education is reporting on unusual collaborations being formed around so called "captcha" technologies that can do double duty by aiming to screen out non-human spambots while also on capitalizing on free labor from human agents. "Google Says Gotcha to ReCaptcha, the Word-Puzzle Company"explains how reCAPTCHA started as a research project at Carnegie Mellon University. (The acronym means Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart.) Now Google has purchased the company, presumably for use in its massive book digitization effort, so that those who authenticate their Google blog comments and other social media postings will also be aiding in correcting the character recognition capacities of digital scanning technologies. Of course, using free labor in service of two different sides of a corporate business plan may make sense for the company's bottom line, but what it means for what Siva Vaidhyanathan has called "The Googlization of Everything" should be the question the Chronicle is asking. Another aspect of the story that seems to be missing is the credit that reCAPTCHA gives to the open source community by acknowledging that "reCAPTCHA is mostly powered by open source software" and offering thanks to "all open source developers for creating tools that help in developing applications such as ours."

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