CAPTCHA is more than a few annoyingly squiggly letters that you need to decipher when verifying your identity online. It’s an acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.” In other words, it’s one of our only lines of defense to protect vital information from all of the robots floating around the Internet (robots that actually account for 61% of all web traffic!).
But could we use CAPTCHA in other areas of our lives? A new project called CAPTCHA Tweet, by studio Shinseungback Kimyonghun, can automatically encode your tweets into these computer-melting images. The intent? To keep the bots out of your business.
“Privacy is an urgent problem that needs to be solved, but we don’t know how that can happen,” co-creator Kim Yong Hun tells Co.Design. “So we hope people can share our perspective and start to think about it together.”
Is the project a counter-surveillance response to recent NSA scandals? Actually, no. Shinseungback Kimyonghun has always had a certain obsession with the relationship between artificial intelligence and humanity, and the development of CAPTCHA Tweet started more than a year ago, before Snowden’s blizzard of conspiracy. The theme of privacy is still at the project’s core because the simple, public text in any tweet can be scrutinized by any number of automated data collectors.
CAPTCHA Tweet is an art project that responds to these (generally innocuous) digital data drones like a soldier marching through a shopping mall, wrapping casual communications in a brash, bullet proof vest of security. It’s incredibly distracting for even the most literate humans to read CAPTCHA, so every 140-character comment you make through their system will not only thwart marketers, but serve as a boisterous middle finger to the man, a borderline militant act of paranoia to remind the public that, yes, someone is watching this conversation.
Of course, there is one catch. Kim points out that CAPTCHA is a far from perfect defense, and researchers have recently reported cracking CAPTCHA codes from Google, PayPal, and Yahoo. “But even so, [those cracks] will be less accurate and require much more computing power and time than reading ordinary text,” Kim insists. “So we can act as a buffer, at least.”
Yes, a buffer. Or as we said above, a generally effective, but not quite invincible, bulletproof vest.