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Anti-Spam Webforms Leave Out The Blind 757

geekee writes "An article on CNET claims that a technique whereby a user enters a code word displayed in an image in order to register for a service such as an e-mail account discriminates against the blind. Advocacy groups for the blind are even hinting at lawsuits against companies using this practice. A proposed audio workaround for the blind still has problems since it has to be garbled to the point where most people can't understand it to prevent a computer from recognizing the letters. Brings up some interesting issues surrounding the Turing test."
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Anti-Spam Webforms Leave Out The Blind

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  • Turing test (Score:2, Informative)

    by BiteMeFanboy ( 680905 ) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @04:47PM (#6352902)
    My ass. This is the opposite of the Turning Test, and has so little to do with it that it shouldn't have even been mentioned. Just some dumb ass reporter trying to appear erudite.
  • Hotmail (Score:5, Informative)

    by eadz ( 412417 ) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @04:48PM (#6352905) Homepage
    Hotmail's one has a link "click here if you can't see the image" which then proceeds to read you the letters via an audio file which you can then type in.

    Although or blind and deaf, you're still out of luck.
  • by mcc ( 14761 ) <> on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @04:49PM (#6352925) Homepage
    Some things just aren't meant to be used by the blind.

    Yes, but that set of things would not logically include Hotmail, Yahoo! Instant Messaging, and Verisign's registration database, which are the specific websites that are listed in this article as using image-based anti-bot techniques...
  • just ask a question (Score:4, Informative)

    by u19925 ( 613350 ) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @04:59PM (#6353054)
    "A proposed audio workaround for the blind still has problems since it has to be garbled to the point where most people can't understand it to prevent a computer from recognizing the letters."

    Can't you just ask a question, like:

    how much is 2 + 2?

    what number comes after 10?

    type in a 4 letter word beginning with "k".

    okay, the problem would be that each website will need to come with its own set of questions. but we can have few templates where you just substitute new parameters each time.

    I am sure, no software is intelligent enough to crack all these questions. by the time, the software becomes intelligent enough to answer these questions, we can come up with something else. it is cat and mouse game except that mouse keeps winning.
  • by nsxdavid ( 254126 ) * <dw@pl[ ]net ['ay.' in gap]> on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @05:00PM (#6353076) Homepage
    There is a fantastic book: "The Death of Common Sense: How Law Is Suffocating America" that talks about such situations and more. It applies directly to this situation and is an entertaining, often infurating read. It's the sort of book that makes you mad at lots of different people. The examples, all real-world, are excellent.

    For example:

    The nuns of the Missionaries of Charity believed two abandoned buildings in New York City would make ideal homeless shelters. The city agreed and offered to sell the building for one dollar each. Yet the shelter project faltered: the city's bureaucracy imposed such expensive remodeling requirements on the buildings that the shelter plans were scrapped.

    ISBN: 0446672289
  • Re:Turing Test? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Elwood P Dowd ( 16933 ) <> on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @05:07PM (#6353147) Journal
    No one seems to be answering your question.

    The Turing Test is a method for distinguishing between humans and machines. These poor quality recordings and distorted images are good ways to prove that a human is involved, because they are hard problems for machines to solve.

    They are cheap, automated Turing Tests. When we have better AI, these will no longer work to sort humans from scripts.
  • CAPTCHA Test (Score:4, Informative)

    by edibleplastic ( 98111 ) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @05:11PM (#6353182)
    If anybody is interested in finding out more about these spambot "turing tests", check out [].

    I seem to remember one of their earlier tests involved determining which word didn't belong in a particular phrase. They would give you something like "The girl went to the mall to buy a giraffe" and the answer would be "giraffe". This sort of test could be given either visually or aurally, and would require a lot of NLP resources to crack (would have to determine part of speech and some amount of the syntactic structure). This kind of system might be the answer.. theoretically it would be accessible to all english speakers, blind or deaf.
  • Re:solved (Score:2, Informative)

    by mathd ( 656476 ) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @05:16PM (#6353234)
    This is cheating because .net passport does not use standard html or javascript. It use a software install on your system to know what hardware you are using. Does anyone else find this an invasion on privacy anyway?
  • Re:friends? (Score:3, Informative)

    by jratcliffe ( 208809 ) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:43PM (#6355678)
    a) sites like yahoo are private, much like the boy scouts, they can discriminate. they will get bad press for it, but oh well.

    Wrong. A private organization that constitutes a public accomodation (restaurants, most clubs, stores, sites like Yahoo, etc.) is prohibited (in the US, YMMV in other countries) from discriminating on several bases, including race (various Civil Rights legislation, and the 14th Amendment) and disability (Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA). Racial minorities and the handicapped are what's called protected classes, meaning you can't discriminate against them for being members of that class. The Boy Scouts discriminate against homosexuals, who do not (as of yet, at least) constitute a protected class under US law.

    Bottom line, you can say "I don't want you in my restaurant because you're gay." You _cannot_ say "I don't want you in my restaurant because you're black" or "I don't want you in my restaurant because you're blind."

10.0 times 0.1 is hardly ever 1.0.