Captchas are getting out of hand

I understand the seriousness of needing to prevent disinformation and bots – especially on social media platforms – but captchas are just getting weird and awful.

From personal experience (because I’m crazy), I do most of my web browsing in Safari with 1Blocker set to completely block all cookies from Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon. When I need to explicitly use one of those websites, I use Firefox with an appropriate container. Like I said, I’m crazy and it’s not something I would expect normal users to do. But, hey, fuck Facebook and their tracking methods.

That said, here’s the problem I run into. So many other websites now use reCAPTCHA to verify that their users aren’t bots. And because I don’t have any Google cookies in my browser, reCAPTCHA freaks out and will make me solve a minimum of three puzzles each time. Often times they’re so difficult I (a human!) have trouble solving them. And occasionally reCAPTCHA will simply never let me pass through at all.

I’m worried that at some point doing any significant activity on the internet will require having a logged-in Google account with your history attached to it.

And it’s not just the occasional web forum trying to cut down on spam comments. I’ve been prevented from paying businesses money because they added reCAPTCHA to their payment form.

So, this screenshot of a recent reCAPTCHA challenge is patently absurd for the significant percentage of the population with vision impairments.

(image via @DougCollinsUX)

Going even further. Recently, I had to solve a captcha by identifying pictures of palm tress. Ok, fine. But that seems like an incredibly localized and niche question to ask. Does the world population in general all know what a palm tree specifically looks like? The same question goes for when reCAPTCHA asked me to identify American-style police cars.

Is Google really doing an honest effort to combat bots? Or are they just training their machine learning models as much as they can while we’re all still willing to put up with this mess?