More problems with captchas

A reader emailed me saying that he had been prevented from entering a comment by my captcha plugin (Simple Cloudflare Turnstile); he got a message saying he had to verify he was human but was not given a problem to solve. Reading the online forum for this plugin on reveals that others have had this problem, too. Then today I got shut out of logging in by exactly the same problem. That did it. I logged in from another computer, and disabled the Simple Cloudflare Turnstile plugin.

Most captcha plugins for Wordress use Google’s recaptcha service. I refuse to use Google products because of their evil practice of stealing user data. However, there are now WordPress captcha plugins using the hCaptcha service, which has a much better privacy policy: “Our systems are designed from the ground up to minimize data collection and retention while maintaining class-leading security. The best way to protect user data is not to store it at all.”

It’s too bad I had to do this. Simple Cloudflare Turnstile has a lot of potential — keeping bots at bay without making everyone solve a stupid captcha puzzle. But when it blocks me from logging into my own blog — well, that’s something I just can’t accept.

I apologize in advance for making you (and making myself) solve a stupid captcha puzzle.

Google is even more evil than I knew

Cory Doctorow wrote a lengthy blog post on how evil Google has become. I already knew that Google search results have declined in quality over the past few years. But I didn’t realize how bad it’s gotten. Here’s how Doctorow describes it:

“When you send a query to Google, it expands that query with terms that are similar – for example, if you search on ‘Weds’ it might also search for ‘Wednesday.’ In the slides shown in the Google trial, we learned about another kind of semantic matching that Google performed, this one intended to turn your search results into ‘a twisted shopping mall you can’t escape.’

“Here’s how that worked: when you ran a query like ‘children’s clothing,’ Google secretly appended the brand name of a kids’ clothing manufacturer to the query. This, in turn, triggered a ton of ads — because rival brands will have bought ads against their competitors’ name (like Pepsi buying ads that are shown over queries for Coke). …

“As [Megan] Gray points out, this is an incredibly blunt enshittification technique: ‘it hadn’t even occurred to me that Google just flat out deletes queries and replaces them with ones that monetize better.‘ We don’t know how long Google did this for or how frequently this bait-and-switch was deployed.” [emphasis added]

In short, Google is far more evil than I expected. Once again, in bigger type:

Google just flat out deletes queries and replaces them with ones that monetize better. — Megan Gray

Next time you use Google to search, remember that. Google is going to replace your actual search query. You will not be searching for what you wanted to search for. You will be searching for something that will make Google more money.