If you’re an internet user you’ve no doubt come across the ‘I’m not a Robot’ button once, twice or several thousand times in your life. The checkbox consistently appears on web pages when you’re doing things like signing in or making a purchase. But what does checking that little I’m not a Robot box actually do to prove you’re human?
Robots are pretty smart these days, I’m sure they’re capable of ticking a box on a website. But the technology behind the plugin is actually a bit more intricate than that.
An episode of ABC’s QI broke this down last year, explaining that being able to check the box isn’t all that important, it’s what you did before checking the box.
Essentially, by ticking the box the website is prompted to check your recent browsing history.
If you’ve been going about doing certain factors that Google deems are normal for a human, the website will believe you’re not a robot.
Back when reCAPTCHA was introduced in 2014, Wired wrote that Google “examines cues every user unwittingly provides. IP addresses and cookies provide evidence that the user is the same friendly human Google remembers from elsewhere on the Web.”
The outlet also interviewed Google Captcha’s product manager at the time, Vinay Shet, who said that this data “gives us a model of how a human behaves. It’s a whole bag of cues that make this hard to spoof for a bot.”
If the website is unsure of you it will prompt you with further tests. This is why you may have to click on a certain number of bridges or cars in an image to prove your humanity.
Google apparently keeps certain elements of the algorithm secret in order to prevent botmasters from improving their software to beat the tests.
So the next time you need a humanity check, click I’m not a robot and see if Google deems your browsing data to be worthy.