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It's quite the rant, meanwhile I don't quite remember the last time I did something where I had to solve a captcha that wasn't the "click once" one.

Try using Tor for a day or two, you'll get reCAPTCHAs on almost every website and in many cases you need to fill multiple out with increasing levels of distorted images. The best one is CloudFlare which can not only ask you to solve a reCAPTCHA once -- but several times when trying to load a single page. And sometimes Google will even refuse to give you a challenge at all because your exit IP is "especially dangerous"!

If 10% of web developers used Tor on weekends, no website would use reCAPTCHA because they'd realise how painful it is to certain users. I run a Tor relay (non-exit) at home, and now I get more reCAPTCHA even though there's no possible reason to assume my home IP is "bad". I'm still going to run my Tor relay -- I just think it's interesting to note that users are being punished by a giant MITM-as-a-Service company for trying to help other people use the internet anonymously.

Thank Cloudflare

To offer a counter-experience, I don't remember the last time I actually HAD the "click once" captcha. It's always "click the buses/traffic lights/store fronts" etc.

Your experience will differ based on how much Google tracking you block. If you're not letting them surveil your every move, they're less convinced you're human by default (or perhaps spite).

I have a hard time assigning malice to the recaptcha more blocking = lower score because while it's a fun conspiratorial position it's also true that the more you block the less you look like the average user who doesn't. Also the less info they can pull from to determine how likely it is you're an actual person so of course people without a trail are going to be more suspicious.

Wow this makes sense now. I switched to Firefox as my primary browser 7-8 weeks ago and enabled strict blocking; and as of the last ~week, I've been greeted with reCAPTCHAs on a ton of websites which previously just let me in.

I have lots of blocking turned on.

I imagine it's partly because I don't block cookies (I whitelist sites that get to store them across sessions and everything else is then session only).

Same here. I'm pretty aggressive in trying to block trackers (ublock, Firefox containers, privacy badger), so perhaps it's due to that.

I have to solve captchas all the time these days; typically, several in a row. It's aggravating as get-out.

I get the puzzles quite often, pretty much every time I deal with a captcha. Private mode browsing, logging in from my pc, firefox vs chrome... I'm not even particularly tracking sensitive. I don't even have extensions more extreme than ublock origin and a strict popup blocker on firefox.

Firefox user, rolling with uBlock and blocking all Google cookies.

Picture captcha every time.

Try setting privacy.resistFingerprinting for the extra challenge.

I've found that breaks things in subtle ways. I have a Plex server connected to my terrestrial antenna to watch TV and the TV guide was showing everything an hour out and I couldn't not for the life of me work out why. Turns out that "privacy.resistFingerprinting" makes your JS timezone UTC, whereas I'm BST.

I'm not sure why they bother, since I'd find it more suspicious if say someone is coming from a Russian IP address but has UTC set and not a Russian timezone...

You absolutely should open an issue about this on FF's issue tracker. Assuming you're not hiding your IP this indeed is actually privacy.helpFingerprinting and should be fixed.

But surely it's by design?

Then it's bad design.

if you aren't logged into a google account, you will always get escalated to puzzle challenges

Or if you are using tor, are blocking tracking, etc. I regularly have to solve 5 or 6 puzzle challenges in a row.

I would happily pay a monthly fee to get around these ridiculous captchas, even though it's absurd to have to do so.

Is that particularly surprising though? Coming from a TOR exit node where a bunch of spam also comes from and blocking tracking so it looks like you're appearing on the site from no where... Both of those are pretty suspicious and reasonable things to crater your humanness score.

Except solving reCAPTCHA shouldn't be necessary in order to read a website. I get (though still don't like) the justification for any modification actions, but GETs shouldn't ever trigger a reCAPTCHA check.

Of course, the Tor folks told the CloudFlare folks about this many years ago and CloudFlare still acts as a giant censorship machine and continues to block anonymous users from reading content on the internet. Not to worry though -- you can install their extension[+] to "protect your privacy" to bypass the reCAPTCHA that CloudFlare themselves erected in front of other people's websites! It's definitely not in any way comparable to an arsonist selling fire insurance as a side gig -- at least with fire insurance you actually got something out of the exchange!

[+] Which does have a paper that explains the security of the cryptosystem, but a single paper does not make a protocol secure by default. I'm not a cryptographer, but the Tor folks did raise some concerns in the issue where PrivacyPass was discussed, and there's no doubt that combining Tor with a system that is nowhere nearly as battle-tested should be a major point of concern.

Many site operators try to spend the absolute least amount of money on servers, so it's common for simple "GET request spam" DDOS attacks to take down a website (especially on dynamic, DB-driven sites). CF in this situation is helping these site owners take the easy road and recaptcha DDOS attacks instead of scaling up servers or having to implement smart caching strategies.

Let me present an alternative framing: A business doesn't have to allow you to access and use it's content in any way you would prefer to access and use it. Part of the bargain of the web is you get a lot of content for free at your fingertips because someone else is paying for the servers. Right now that's mostly ad money because it's simple to add and doesn't require companies to change their content much. Ad blocking, tracking blocking, and anonymizers are all circumventing the funding model that makes a lot of the web possible.

Do I wish there was an alternative to aggressive ads and tracking? Hell yes. Do I want to pay every website individually for what I view? Nope, and companies don't either because it would massively hurt their growth for people coming in new.

I don't know why you're talking about online advertising. People use Tor for a wide variety of reasons, many of which are completely unrelated to whatever business model the target website has. In addition, my comment was about CloudFlare (a MITM) putting reCAPTCHA on other people's websites -- I don't see how advertising is even slightly related to that topic.

I would argue a "better" framing designed to emotionally manipulate would be "why are you trying to block people in oppressive regimes from being able to read about the outside world and organise themselves, putting them in danger of being murdered by their government"? But it would be dishonest to make the discussion about "why do you want to kill people", just as it is dishonest to make the discussion about website business models.

CloudFlare isn't just going around randomly putting their caching/filtering in front of websites they're choosing to have it there though. The sites are choosing it.

Advertising is related here because recaptcha's use of tracking, primarily used for advertising, as a factor in determining their score for users and also because blocking ads/tracking is part of the cause behind people's issues with recaptcha.

It is also problematic when you wish to use external download managers (which I always do).

I've had the picture ones once it twice this year and it only took a couple seconds. The pictures don't take much longer than the text did for me but I wonder if it gets worse on certain configurations (I've heard recaptcha is super bad if you use TOR).

Chrome user?

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