Just a click: The new reCAPTCHA API

Just announced today by Vinay Shet is the new reCAPTCHA API which is being called the “No CAPTCHA reCAPTCHA.” With the new system, many people might just click a checkbox rather than have to read and type distorted text. As just one part of determining if someone is a bot or human visitor, the movement of the mouse cursor within the reCAPTCHA area will be tracked to see if it has human-like motion.

A CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) is a test that is used to filter out bots and other automated agents to prevent spam and other malicious activity. There are many different types of CAPTCHAs, but one of the most common today is a text field and an image of scrambled text. The person reads the scrambled text and types it into the text field.

An example CAPTCHA.
An example of a scrambled-text CAPTCHA (Public domain image from Wikipedia Commons.)

CAPTCHAs can present difficulty to people with disabilities. This new click-a-checkbox CAPTCHA also is problematic to some users—especially if it were the only CAPTCHA method. Some people only access websites using a keyboard or keyboard emulator because of physical disabilities. People who are blind cannot see where to click with the mouse. People using Mouse Keys will not look like a regular mouse user. This problem can be mitigated by having an alternative CAPTCHA in a different modality for those users.

I have not tried any of the new reCAPTCHAs in the wild yet. I do know that Google has implemented increasing challenges with the new system, where a user with an “odd” checkbox click and telemetry will see an additional CAPTCHA challenge (such as an audio CAPTCHA or picking out the pictures of kittens). I would hope that there is a way to either bypass the click or at least “click” the checkbox using a keyboard, screen reader, or other assistive technology in order to get to the next CAPTCHA step.


About J. Bern Jordan

Bern is a Ph.D. candidate and researcher in accessibility, usability, user interface, and technology interested in extending usability to all people, including people with disabilities and those who are aging. He currently works at the Trace R&D Center in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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