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posted by LaminatorX on Tuesday January 27 2015, @02:34AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the croud-fleecing dept.

It turns out that while you're proving to the web server you're a human, you might also be pitching in to provide one of Google's services to its corporate customers. A woman filed a class action lawsuit against Google last Thursday in US District Court in Massachusetts, alleging that Google's reCAPTCHA service has harvested unpaid image-to-text transcription work from millions of web site visitors. Google markets reCAPTCHA as a service to web site owners; its customers include Facebook, Twitter, and Ticketmaster. Like other CAPTCHA implementations, reCAPTCHA challenges site visitors to type in the text corresponding to a visually distorted word. But reCAPTCHA differs from the others in that its images often contain two distorted words, as noted by the civil complaint:

One of those words is a “known” word, which the website user must enter correctly to access the website as a security measure. That is, because Google already knows what word is being displayed in the first distorted image, if the user enters the word correctly, Google knows the user is likely to be a human, and thus permits the users to continue using the website...

The other of the two words, however, serves no security purpose. The second word is an image with text that Google is attempting to transcribe. The sole purpose of the second word is to require the user to read and transcribe the word for Google’s commercial use and benefit, with no corresponding benefit to the user.

The lawsuit notes that Google makes use of optical character transcription for its own products such as Google Books and Street View, and also provides an archive digitization service to newspapers, including the New York Times.

This was apparently never a dark secret; the use of reCAPTCHA to "crowdsource" digitization of old printed materials was publicized as a feature by both Luis von Ahn (who invented reCAPTCHA as a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University) and Google (who acquired the reCAPTCHA technology in 2009):

reCAPTCHA technology was developed not merely with an eye toward improving cyber security, but also as a way to harness and reuse the collective human time and mental energy spent solving and typing CAPTCHAs—a concept von Ahn has dubbed “human computation.” By constructing CAPTCHAs using words tagged as unreadable in the digitizing of books and other printed material, millions and millions of cyber users play a part every day in the digitization and preservation of human knowledge by transcribing words. Tests have shown that reCAPTCHA textual images are deciphered and transcribed with 99.1% accuracy, a rate comparable to the best human professional transcription services.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27 2015, @02:38AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27 2015, @02:38AM (#138400)

    just might be yours.

  • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Tuesday January 27 2015, @02:48AM

    by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday January 27 2015, @02:48AM (#138401) Journal
    'nough said.
    --
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
    • (Score: 2) by Zyx Abacab on Tuesday January 27 2015, @03:21AM

      by Zyx Abacab (3701) on Tuesday January 27 2015, @03:21AM (#138409)

      4chan already got on that with the Renigger Project [imgur.com]. Unfortunately, Google caught on and adjusted the algorithm - especially where that particular word is concerned.

      Doesn't stop me from putting some random word in every time, though.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27 2015, @02:53PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27 2015, @02:53PM (#138555)

        A while back google stepped up the difficulty of reCAPTCHA to be annoying. Since then I have always written "fuck" for the unknown word.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27 2015, @05:31AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27 2015, @05:31AM (#138444)

      I've been experimenting a bit with this since at some point I got lumped with decoding house numbers from fuzzy street view photos. So far my experience is that google has no penalty for constantly getting it wrong. I've not been dropped back to having to decode two known things, despite being deliberately bad at interpreting bad photos. I would have thought that they'd present each photo to N people (N >= 3), and when ceil(N/2) provided the same value accept that as the truth, and also note any who got it wrong as not-so-reliable-at-this-ocr-stuff...

    • (Score: 2) by threedigits on Tuesday January 27 2015, @08:02AM

      by threedigits (607) on Tuesday January 27 2015, @08:02AM (#138468)

      Been doing it for years.

    • (Score: 2) by ikanreed on Tuesday January 27 2015, @02:47PM

      by ikanreed (3164) on Tuesday January 27 2015, @02:47PM (#138548) Journal

      What you douchebags don't realize is that if recaptcha fails, they're going to start doing something like Solve Media, where you have to put in a word from an advertisement to continue. I'll take old books over that any day.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 28 2015, @09:11AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 28 2015, @09:11AM (#138810)

      On 4chan we used to call that "operation reNigger", systematically replacing the unknown word by "nigger".

  • (Score: 2) by GungnirSniper on Tuesday January 27 2015, @02:49AM

    by GungnirSniper (1671) on Tuesday January 27 2015, @02:49AM (#138402) Journal

    She and others are free to not use the site or service that is reusing reCAPTCHA, and then sue those sites for failing to filter out MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] and similar spam.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27 2015, @07:22AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27 2015, @07:22AM (#138461)

      jeez, that brings back memories ... :) is the new moderation system already online?

      • (Score: 3, Funny) by maxwell demon on Tuesday January 27 2015, @06:19PM

        by maxwell demon (1608) on Tuesday January 27 2015, @06:19PM (#138596) Journal

        I don't think they introduced a Nostalgia moderation.

        --
        The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
  • (Score: 1) by LancePodstrong on Tuesday January 27 2015, @02:57AM

    by LancePodstrong (5029) on Tuesday January 27 2015, @02:57AM (#138403)

    This was in the news when they first started doing it. People liked it because not only did it filter out spambots, but it also contributed to something worthwhile. Of course someone is going to be making money on that... What else did anyone expect?

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Ken_g6 on Tuesday January 27 2015, @03:35AM

      by Ken_g6 (3706) on Tuesday January 27 2015, @03:35AM (#138414)

      I think initially the "second word" was from Project Gutenberg [gutenberg.org], a non-profit dedicated to digitizing old, public-domain books. Initially the slogan was something like "Stop spam, read books". I guess at some point that got changed, but I don't remember any notice of the change.

    • (Score: 2) by SlimmPickens on Tuesday January 27 2015, @03:40AM

      by SlimmPickens (1056) on Tuesday January 27 2015, @03:40AM (#138416)

      It's still stated clearly on the recaptcha homepage.

      I wonder if this woman is just a gold digger, or if it offends her values?

      • (Score: 2) by Nerdfest on Tuesday January 27 2015, @04:10AM

        by Nerdfest (80) on Tuesday January 27 2015, @04:10AM (#138423)

        There sure seems to be a lot of Google FUD this week. We've got this, the "they didn't release government data requests" stories (when of course they were under gag orders, just like everyone else), and I think there was another one over the weekend. It could be just a coincidence. I'm still of the opinion that it's Microsoft (whom I also said was spreading FUD about Google Glass, and I think that nutty theory just had some weight added to it with the showing of Holo).

        It's also quite possible that I'm a paranoid conspiracy theorist. We'll see. FaceBook got caught paying for FUD to be spread against Google, it could happen again.

        • (Score: 2) by frojack on Tuesday January 27 2015, @04:42AM

          by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday January 27 2015, @04:42AM (#138436) Journal

          The mainstream news outlets (reuters and friends) are all gushing with iphone stories this week too.

          There is no news there, no new products, just the iphone army in the press cranking it up again. Somehow Apple keeps a very active press churn of out-of-the-woodwork stories going constantly. Usually on NO NEWS whatsovever.

          --
          No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
      • (Score: 2) by lentilla on Tuesday January 27 2015, @04:41AM

        by lentilla (1770) on Tuesday January 27 2015, @04:41AM (#138435)

        I wonder if this woman is just a gold digger, or if it offends her values?

        If she gets any gold, then good for her.

        This lawsuit is yet another one of those tiresome but necessary maneuvers to "keep the bastards honest" (to use a uniquely Australian saying). ReCAPTCHA started off as a ingenious method of harvesting all that wasted human effort into keeping our grubby cousins from ruining something special. Then it quietly slid away from its original quid pro quo and now it seems the "harvest" ends up enriching a commercial enterprise.

        Indeed, it makes sense what Google is doing - I would be entirely unsurprised to find that they are not only using the ReCAPTCHA work to solve their current problem but that they are additionally using the data to improve their algorithms. It is entirely likely that they will fold these new algorithms into further products that everyone will get to use for free. The question is whether we think that this is a fair and reasonable use of our collective time: we provide the effort, they provide us with (1) an immediate service and (2) they get to improve their accuracy and (3) they harness our effort to make something to sell. It's a interesting quandary. In my own opinion it's not acceptable. I don't mind Google improving their algorithms by studying the input and output but I do mind them making a profit directly from our labour. Were they digitising Gutenburg whilst simultaneously improving their algorithm, I'd see that as completely reasonable.

        This is just another example of a slippery slope as often arises from human endeavours. As an example: let's say you're the IT guy at a large workplace. Every so often obsolete equipment gets thrown out. There is little harm taking home a crappy monitor that nobody else wants that will otherwise get put into landfill. Every job has these kind of perks. One falls down that "slippery slope" the day that a monitor is written off prematurely for the sole purpose of taking it home. I think we are seeing Google sliding here: they have gone from recycling something that was wasted to directly profiting from waste.

        So when I say "good luck" to the plaintiff I really mean it. It's not a battle I'd want to fight but it does need to be fought - if only to remind Google that they need to be as honest as the rest of us.

        • (Score: 2) by NotSanguine on Tuesday January 27 2015, @08:33AM

          by NotSanguine (285) <NotSanguineNO@SPAMSoylentNews.Org> on Tuesday January 27 2015, @08:33AM (#138474) Homepage Journal

          Let me make sure I understand your point of view.

          You seem to be saying that this poor woman was just minding her own business and Google forced her to work for free. Is that correct?

          I disagree. This person sought out a gmail account in order to use the services of Google. Google has exactly zero responsibility to anyone except their shareholders and, in this case, especially no responsibility to this person who wanted to use their service for *free*.

          That's not to say I think Google is a poster boy for ethical activities, much the opposite. In this case, this woman wasn't forced to do anything. If she objected to identifying a scanned word without being compensated, she could have declined to sign up for a gmail account. It seems to me that she took affirmative actions to get what *she* wanted.

          I can't verify this, but I'm pretty sure that a google employee didn't track her down and force her to do *anything*.

          If you want to demonize google, go for it. You won't get much of an argument from me, but this lawsuit is, IMHO, idiotic.

          --
          No, no, you're not thinking; you're just being logical. --Niels Bohr
          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27 2015, @08:57AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27 2015, @08:57AM (#138479)

            yea well she didn't agree to be an independent contractor so you can profit off her unpaid labor

            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27 2015, @08:59AM

              by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27 2015, @08:59AM (#138481)

              *can't (legally)

            • (Score: 2) by NotSanguine on Tuesday January 27 2015, @09:19AM

              by NotSanguine (285) <NotSanguineNO@SPAMSoylentNews.Org> on Tuesday January 27 2015, @09:19AM (#138482) Homepage Journal

              yea well she didn't agree to be an independent contractor so you can profit off her unpaid labor

              She chose to do it. No one asked her to do anything. She could just as easily created a free email account at many [duckduckgo.com] other places.

              She decided to fill in the re-captcha. No one promised her any compensation or consideration. If she wanted to be recompensed, she could have contacted Google and requested it. Fat lot of good it would have done, but again, it was her choice to do so. No one made any false promises or tricked her into doing anything. She did exactly what she wanted to do: create a gmail account.

              One other tidbit, I don't profit (except as we all profit from more books being digitized) from anything Google does. I'm not a fan of Google. In fact, I find their practices reprehensible.

              Don't like Google? I'm right there with you, friend. But from a logical and (N.B. IANAL) legal standpoint, there is no basis for a claim on her part, IMHO.

              Obviously you have an axe to grind. Please do it on someone else's lawn.

              --
              No, no, you're not thinking; you're just being logical. --Niels Bohr
              • (Score: 2) by romlok on Tuesday January 27 2015, @11:22AM

                by romlok (1241) on Tuesday January 27 2015, @11:22AM (#138502)

                She chose to do it. No one asked her to do anything. She could just as easily created a free email account at many other places.

                And I wonder how many of those other places also require a reCaptcha to sign up for an account? From what I've seen, this could well be yet another Google service that has become so ubiquitous that it's bordering on monopoly.

                • (Score: 2) by NotSanguine on Tuesday January 27 2015, @10:21PM

                  by NotSanguine (285) <NotSanguineNO@SPAMSoylentNews.Org> on Tuesday January 27 2015, @10:21PM (#138652) Homepage Journal

                  She chose to do it. No one asked her to do anything. She could just as easily created a free email account at many other places.

                  And I wonder how many of those other places also require a reCaptcha to sign up for an account? From what I've seen, this could well be yet another Google service that has become so ubiquitous that it's bordering on monopoly.

                  I'm not sure. At the same time, whether to fill in a re-captcha or not is still a choice that the user makes. No one forced the plaintiff to do anything.

                  I've said this repeatedly, but apparently you folks only comprehend what you want to, so I'll say it again: I have no love for Google or its practices. I generally find them to be scum who profit from (virtually) rummaging through your underwear drawer.

                  However, using re-captcha to further its business goals (in this case to enhance its proprietary street view database) is a decision made by Google. Whether you think it's exploitation or not, you're still not forced to do anything at all. If you choose to use Google services (in this case, Gmail) then you have, IMHO, no cause for complaint.

                  As to other sites which use re-captcha, if enough folks refuse to sign up because of re-captcha and make noise about it, there will likely be a positive response.

                  In any case, this is a nonsense lawsuit and will likely be thrown out at the earliest opportunity.

                  If you don't like what Google is doing with re-captcha, don't use it. Better yet, give incorrect information. That'll learn 'em. Riiiight.

                  --
                  No, no, you're not thinking; you're just being logical. --Niels Bohr
              • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 28 2015, @04:35AM

                by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 28 2015, @04:35AM (#138749)

                not only is captcha incorporated into gmail signups it is ubitquitous in commenting forums across the internet. if you want to be part of a community you shouldn't have to "work for google" to participate. I bet google will settle this one out of court

          • (Score: 1) by pTamok on Tuesday January 27 2015, @11:41AM

            by pTamok (3042) on Tuesday January 27 2015, @11:41AM (#138507)

            "Google has exactly zero responsibility to anyone except their shareholders"

            Can I point out that this is not true. It is a recurring meme, often used to paint companies as legal sociopaths/psychopaths. This link (nothing special, just one of the first that came up on an Internet search engine)

            http://smallbusiness.chron.com/corporate-governance-legal-responsibilty-shareholders-72289.html [chron.com]

            gives more information and keywards on the topic, such as fiducary duty and corporate social responsibility. To quote from the article at that link:

            Although corporate officers have a fiduciary duty to shareholders, they are not under any legal obligation to make sure every decision they make results in maximum company profits or higher share prices. The objective of corporate governance is not to maximize short-term share prices, but to ensure the corporation's long-term health.

            And this is quite apart from the legal and regulatory responsibilities of a corporate body, which involves taking account of applicable laws and conditions imposed by regulatory bodies. Some legal environments impose a duty of corporate social responsibility on companies, so in those cases, you can't perform socially irresponsible behaviour on the excuse that it is mandated by the articles of association or shareholders.

            I general see the phrase "zero responsibility to anyone except their shareholders" used when someone is trying to deflect an argument away, or to excuse irresponsible behaviour.

            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 28 2015, @04:51AM

              by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 28 2015, @04:51AM (#138754)
              every idea that spreads is a meme by definition. In the example link you provide "The rules of corporate governance allow shareholders to vote for the officers and directors that control the company's day-to-day operations. Shareholders vote on what actions the company can take, which officers will be selected and which managers will be dismissed." So in what sense are the companies not looking to maximize profits?

              "a Mexican subsidiary of the retail chain Wal-Mart was accused of bribing officials to obtain building permits for more stores. When the news came out, the stock price fell by eight percent. The California state teachers' union pension fund, one of the company's sizable investors, sued Wal-Mart for its actions, which damaged the stock price." Yea you can't get caught breaking the law because then you don't win, if they didn't get caught that would be maximum profit. google did not win, though they are in so many businesses anyone would have a hard time proving that the drop from 534$/share to 518$/share, since the complaint was filed on 1/22, was correlated with the complaint.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27 2015, @03:52AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27 2015, @03:52AM (#138419)

      When they first started doing it the OCR wasn't for Google, it was free training data to improve open engines. No longer.

  • (Score: 1) by Darth Turbogeek on Tuesday January 27 2015, @03:17AM

    by Darth Turbogeek (1073) on Tuesday January 27 2015, @03:17AM (#138406)

    The first part of the Captcha is used to auth as a human, while the second part is a text that an OCR couldn't work out so Google is using humans to gain an even better OCR / fix OCR issues?

    Putting aside issues like privacy for a sec - that in all honesty is one of the most simple but brilliant ideas for fixing digitization issues. So simple and brilliant that it's obvious with hindsight, which is what most really good ideas tend to be. Sure, a lot of technical issues to execute but still..!

    • (Score: 2) by frojack on Tuesday January 27 2015, @04:08AM

      by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday January 27 2015, @04:08AM (#138421) Journal

      So then, anything you key in for the second part must be as good as anything else?

      She could just type Bye and be on her way?

      --
      No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by TheRaven on Tuesday January 27 2015, @11:12AM

      by TheRaven (270) on Tuesday January 27 2015, @11:12AM (#138497) Journal
      The saddest thing for me is that Google is getting credit for a technology that they adopted, but didn't invent (it came from CMU, which also developed a neat way of generating image tags via a similar approach that they called an 'ESP game') . Anyway, there are two points of the second image. The first is to increase the size of the database of first images. reCAPTCHA shows the same unknown image to a load of people and assumes that, once there is a consensus among people that have got the known image correct that they have a correct representation of it. It's then added to the list of known images and used to check if people are human. The other purpose is human OCR.

      The original reCAPTCHA used images from public domain books and was contributing towards creating digital versions of a large corpus of public domain works for download. The new version uses streetview images and contributes towards helping Google build a large proprietary database.

      --
      sudo mod me up
  • (Score: 2) by NotSanguine on Tuesday January 27 2015, @03:35AM

    by NotSanguine (285) <NotSanguineNO@SPAMSoylentNews.Org> on Tuesday January 27 2015, @03:35AM (#138413) Homepage Journal

    Nor is it, IMHO, a reasonable basis for a lawsuit.

    Doesn't Ms. Rojas-Lozano have anything better to do than file worthless lawsuits?

    From TFA:

    According to the suit — filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts — Rojas-Lozano signed up for a Gmail account and was forced to respond to a ReCAPTCHA prompt by typing two words that were displayed as two distorted images — and she did not receive any compensation for transcribing the second word. [Emphasis added]

    No one forces her or anyone else to sign up for gmail or use sites that require re-captcha, nor is any site required to use it either. I would be very surprised if this wasn't thrown out at the earliest opportunity.

    Then again, if she stopped filling in the re-captchas, she might have more time to file new lawsuits.

    --
    No, no, you're not thinking; you're just being logical. --Niels Bohr
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27 2015, @03:58AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27 2015, @03:58AM (#138420)

      I agree that this is mostly bullshit, but you do have to draw a line somewhere. At what point does it become actual work that falls under labor laws? Are grocery stores ever going to require customers to restock everything in a cart before they'll have an empty cart to use? Could a restaurant require you to clean the tables while they make your order?

      • (Score: 2) by NotSanguine on Tuesday January 27 2015, @04:09AM

        by NotSanguine (285) <NotSanguineNO@SPAMSoylentNews.Org> on Tuesday January 27 2015, @04:09AM (#138422) Homepage Journal

        Are grocery stores ever going to require customers to restock everything in a cart before they'll have an empty cart to use?

        Maybe. If you don't want to do that, shop elsewhere.

        Could a restaurant require you to clean the tables while they make your order?

        Sure. Again, if you don't want to do it, eat at another restaurant.

        Sensing a trend here?

        --
        No, no, you're not thinking; you're just being logical. --Niels Bohr
        • (Score: 2) by GungnirSniper on Tuesday January 27 2015, @04:20AM

          by GungnirSniper (1671) on Tuesday January 27 2015, @04:20AM (#138428) Journal

          There was a time when all merchandise was behind the counter and prices were all haggled. Surely racks and set prices were frowned upon at first, but the market spoke.

          • (Score: 2) by VLM on Tuesday January 27 2015, @02:26PM

            by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday January 27 2015, @02:26PM (#138544)

            "prices were all haggled"

            And yet, in 2015, womens clothing stores where 90% of the store is "on sale" at any given instant, plus or minus the corruption level of your state regulators. Its like one-way-communication haggling.

        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by TheRaven on Tuesday January 27 2015, @11:14AM

          by TheRaven (270) on Tuesday January 27 2015, @11:14AM (#138498) Journal
          The problem with this argument is that it assumes a functioning market with viable alternatives. This isn't always the case and it's particularly hard to compete with a company like Google that can afford to run almost everything at a loss because their advertising business brings in so much money.
          --
          sudo mod me up
      • (Score: 2) by zeigerpuppy on Tuesday January 27 2015, @06:00AM

        by zeigerpuppy (1298) on Tuesday January 27 2015, @06:00AM (#138448)

        It's not quite that simple.
        Firstly, this should clearly be in the Terms of Service. If it's not, the case may stand up.
        Secondly, this also relates to Google's effective monopoly situation. If they can argue that on some basis she had to use the service, again there may be a fragile leg to stand on.
        But in general, I agree, just don't use Google, they are clearly evil.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27 2015, @10:30AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27 2015, @10:30AM (#138490)

        Could a shop require you to take the items from the shelf yourself? Every supermarket does these days.
        Could a restaurant require you to carry the food to your table yourself? Every fast food restaurant does.
        Could a furniture shop require you to build the furniture from the parts yourself? That's exactly IKEA's business model.

        • (Score: 1) by stp on Tuesday January 27 2015, @03:32PM

          by stp (3735) on Tuesday January 27 2015, @03:32PM (#138563)

          A better analogy would be a restaurant requiring you to build furniture before getting served.

          • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Tuesday January 27 2015, @06:22PM

            by maxwell demon (1608) on Tuesday January 27 2015, @06:22PM (#138597) Journal

            More like drawing a single screw by a small amount.

            --
            The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 28 2015, @06:36AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 28 2015, @06:36AM (#138774)

        Well, see, here's the thing. Around here they've got a chain called Aldi's. From what I understand, it costs you some pocket change to rent a cart.

        Personally, I prefer Save-a-Lot. You have to bring your own bags and bag your own stuff.

        Now, if you want full service, I'd recommend Hardee's or D&W. I think those are the only places that still have baggers. They'll even take your groceries out to your car and help load it. Also I think Family Fare up north.

        But it'll cost you a bit more.

        Ah, free choice.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by krishnoid on Tuesday January 27 2015, @08:07AM

      by krishnoid (1156) on Tuesday January 27 2015, @08:07AM (#138470)

      Rojas-Lozano signed up for a Gmail account and was forced to respond to a ReCAPTCHA prompt by typing two words that were displayed as two distorted images — and she did not receive any compensation for transcribing the second word.

      She got a Gmail account and 15GB of email storage. That counts, right?

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27 2015, @04:03PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27 2015, @04:03PM (#138569)

        The point is that she got that email account and 15GB of storage in exchange for her privacy and her time for viewing/reading the ads associated with it. That's the deal she signed off on.
        Nowhere was it mentioned that she was also required to transcribe digital images.

        A comparison would be that you make a deal with a seller to buy product x, but that the seller will only let you take it home after you've repaired his garage door, which wasn't in the sales contract.
        The amount of work Google (seller) requires from the buyer is much less, but it is still required work that's not stated in the deal.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 28 2015, @04:24AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 28 2015, @04:24AM (#138746)

          I don't think I've ever seen a quid pro quo user agreement in the license whatsoever. So no, I don't think she did enter a contract with well defined terms like you described. If anything, the EULA probably makes the entire suit frivalous. Unless the captcha comes before you read the EULA :)

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by jcross on Tuesday January 27 2015, @04:40AM

    by jcross (4009) on Tuesday January 27 2015, @04:40AM (#138434)

    I'm not buying that transcribing the second word is useless for preventing spam. If there were a finite set of known words, spammers would simply use humans to decode them until they had a complete enough set of search images to do it automatically, feeding the diminishing set of failures back to the humans. I think part of how the system works is that today's unknown words become tomorrow's known words, so there's no fixed dataset for the attackers to gain headway on.

    Side note: the cleverest attack I've heard of is running a free porn site, but requiring people to complete a captcha to click through to the goods. The twist is that the captcha is proxied from some legit site, so you're using the porn-clickers to get you gmail accounts or whatever. Now that's exploitation! I doubt the victims will be filing a class-action lawsuit anytime soon. "They made us work for five seconds before we could fap. It's a crime I tell you, a crime against humanity!"

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27 2015, @05:41AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27 2015, @05:41AM (#138446)

      This would be the obvious thing to do. However, having payed attention to this detail, and suggesting it formally years ago, ... it appears to not be happening. Look at the captchas. They _always_ have one clear word.

      In fact, on the other site a couple years ago, they had an article about how spammers would just OCR the one readable word, submit trash, and get through the system. Everyone commenting was going, "Nuh-uh! The second word is _undecipherable_, that's why it's there!" -- and that's why the method worked. The second word was unknown, ungradeable. What you've said is the obvious fix; alas, ...

  • (Score: 2) by aristarchus on Tuesday January 27 2015, @04:52AM

    by aristarchus (2645) on Tuesday January 27 2015, @04:52AM (#138439) Journal

    When I work for free, I tend to really put myself into my work. If it is food, a bit of spittle is usually enough. And for google, I spit into the captchas, just to have some ownership of the work. Copyright is nothing compared to actual DNA!

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    • (Score: 2) by nyder on Tuesday January 27 2015, @05:39AM

      by nyder (4525) on Tuesday January 27 2015, @05:39AM (#138445)

      You must have a really clean monitor!!!!

      • (Score: 2) by aristarchus on Tuesday January 27 2015, @07:14AM

        by aristarchus (2645) on Tuesday January 27 2015, @07:14AM (#138460) Journal

        Au contraire, mon ami! That is only if you wipe it off. Right now, I can barely read Google, let alone understand what it means. Maybe there is no reality beyond this, the Google universe, and all those who speak of the "ungooglebar" are only deluded fools, wishing for a transcendent reality that does not exist, and cannot exist because if it could it would be "Googlebar". I believe these terms are Swedish, but I am not sure, only being a small fraction Swede and having none of the language. Hummmm,, Google translate! See? I told you! Felix Navigation!

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    • (Score: 1) by coolgopher on Tuesday January 27 2015, @11:33AM

      by coolgopher (1157) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday January 27 2015, @11:33AM (#138505)

      See, this is why people want labels on food containing DNA [soylentnews.org]! ;)

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27 2015, @08:57AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27 2015, @08:57AM (#138480)

    When ever Facebook asks me to identify a photograph of a person, I say: "Richard Nixon". I works on so many levels!

  • (Score: 2) by MrGuy on Tuesday January 27 2015, @01:22PM

    by MrGuy (1007) on Tuesday January 27 2015, @01:22PM (#138521)

    By picking which links to click on and which not to in a Google search result, you're giving information to Google (without compensation) that helps them tune their search algorithm, thus furthering their commercial interests.

  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27 2015, @01:45PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27 2015, @01:45PM (#138531)

    I imagine such a lawsuit is likely to get dismissed, or won by Google in fairly short order. Which is going to set a mole-hill precedent for a large number of subsequent mountains of consumer exploitation. One wonders whether that is the purpose of the lawsuit; fabricate a lawsuit over a candy bar theft, so that you can form a precedent for a later jewel heist that uses a similar modus operandi.

    When legislatures refuse to act, the judiciary is often compelled to act in it's stead. It may be reasonable to consider the possibility that Corporations hold legislatures in such contempt, that they regard bench law as being cheaper and more expedient that political participation. IOW, fabricate both ends of a lawsuit to at least get _something_ on the books. The smart kid knows that he is going to get shaken down by the frat boys. So he picks fight in daylight instead of waiting to get pummeled by them after dark. Better to take one beating in public, that many later in private.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27 2015, @11:37PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27 2015, @11:37PM (#138680)

      I was about to say "this is from one of those joke news websites right?" or
      "this must be a new low, usa'ians are suing when they have to do a good deed"
      but you are probably right, she is probably payed by google to do this lawsuit
      because they need it for some reason :-(

      this world sucks in either case

  • (Score: 2) by Nobuddy on Tuesday January 27 2015, @08:51PM

    by Nobuddy (1626) on Tuesday January 27 2015, @08:51PM (#138628)

    They have been up front about what it is doing since day 1. There is no trick involved. It is a simple dual purpose task. Provide anti-script login capability and resolve ACR failures in books and maps.

  • (Score: 3) by darkfeline on Tuesday January 27 2015, @11:40PM

    by darkfeline (1030) on Tuesday January 27 2015, @11:40PM (#138686) Homepage

    Yeah, speaking realistically Google will win.

    But I think there's an important issue at stake here. Let's forget about the specifics of this case and look at the essence of the matter:

    A company asks something from you for verification. The company then, either without telling you or telling you via some fine text on some web page or form no one will ever read, takes what you have given them and makes money from it, keeping all of it for themselves.

    Sure, now it's just captcha -> OCR -> public contribution to digitization (and maybe making money from corporate clients), but in the future it may well be DNA to verify your identity -> sell all your genetic information to third parties for mad profit or solve this NP hard problem real quick to verify you are human -> sell massive human computing service to corporate clients.

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    • (Score: 2) by urza9814 on Thursday January 29 2015, @04:28PM

      by urza9814 (3954) on Thursday January 29 2015, @04:28PM (#139213) Journal

      A company asks something from you for verification. The company then, either without telling you or telling you via some fine text on some web page or form no one will ever read, takes what you have given them and makes money from it, keeping all of it for themselves.

      ...you do realize there's a big question mark button right on the ReCaptcha element which links to several pages of simple english explanation of exactly what ReCaptcha is and how it work, right? Exactly what more do you want them to do? Should they fill the entire damn login form with disclaimers? I mean honestly, *Soylent News* is less transparent than ReCaptcha...

      Furthermore, it's taking something they're going to make you do anyway to stop spam (which I see nobody complaining about) and actually getting some useful work out of it. And here come the freakin' luddites like yourself actually *complaining* about people finding a way to do something useful with previously wasted human labor?

      I'm guessing you're also one of those people who complain about self-checkout lanes in stores "stealing jobs"? Maybe you ought to get off the internet and give the USPS some of their work back. Efficiency is a good thing man, embrace it!

  • (Score: 2) by Rosco P. Coltrane on Wednesday January 28 2015, @01:23PM

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (4757) on Wednesday January 28 2015, @01:23PM (#138845)

    I fucking HATE recaptchas. They ARE slave labor.

    Fortunately, they only check your answer against the computer-generated word, not the one the OCR can't read. So for the second word, I simply type "fuckrecaptchas" or "fuckcaptchas" or "googlesucks" or something. That way, I get to work against Google, instead of for them. I don't use the same bogus words too often, in case Google silently filters them out.

    If the un-OCR-able word isn't a word but a house number in a street, Google does seem to check it against other responses. So you can't type any old number. However, the verification algorithm still makes allowances for one misread digit, if it resembles another similar digit - like 3 and 8, or 1 and 7. So if the house number is 1753 for instance, I type 1153 or 1758 and the captcha is accepted.

    By the way, other people hate recaptchas too and have had the same idea: here for example is /b/'s "operation reNigger" [fjcdn.com], which is exactly the same thing.