New use for ‘captcha’ graphics

  • Hamburg
  • India
  • Oct 17, 2014



An ingenious new service from Germany enables you to keep addresses and other semi-private data ‘hidden in plain sight’ online, by converting the text to an image. Anyone who has done much online shopping or banking will have, at some point, encountered a captcha (capture) graphic. These distorted and curvy depictions of numbers and letters routinely pop up during security screenings. To access secure spaces, computer users are required to recognise the figures and then type them in. The idea is that a computer hijacked by an automated virus would be unable to recognise the characters and would, thus, get no further. The same security idea can be put to work to help private users protect their own messages. The group Digitalcourage, which campaigns for information freedom and data security, has already made a captcha generator available at . Users are asked to type in the text they want encoded. It only takes one click to turn that into a captcha, which can be downloaded. A person could use the service to send a message to a Facebook contact, but in a format that would not let it be read by Facebook’s data crawlers. Others might want to add an additional layer of protection to a website’s contact data or company information page, preventing webcrawlers or ‘bot’ programmes from gathering the data and misusing it for spam. The generator is clearly designed to keep Internet services from digitising user data. Digitalcourage says it does not save the data in a readable format and clears its server of every graphic within 10 minutes of creation. If that does not reassure you, you can simply write the words in ‘longhand’ on paper, photograph the paper and send the image.


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