Everyone is familiar with the little tick box that says ‘I am not a robot’ but do you know what ticking it actually does?
It’s sometimes accompanied by a series of photos where you have to select all the ‘traffic lights’, ‘stop signs’ or ‘fire hydrants’.
Everyone does this without hesitation, but it turns out that it is actually a bit more complicated.
TV host Sandi Toksvig explained this to Alan Davies, David Mitchell, Maisie Adams and Holly Walsh in an episode of QI.
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The writer and comedian said: “So ticking the box is not the point. It’s how you behaved before you ticked the box that is analysed.
“So, to be honest, I can’t tell you all the details because they keep it secret because they don’t want people trying to cheat the test, but broadly speaking, you tick the box and it prompts the website to check your browsing history.
“So let us say, for example, before you tick the box you watched a couple of cat videos and you liked a tweet about Greta Thunberg, you checked your Gmail account before you got down to work – all of that makes them think that you must be a human.
“And checking the box can even spur it to analyse the way in which you moved your mouse across screen. It’s slightly spooky, I think.
“Essentially, when you are clicking ‘I am not a robot’ box, you are instructing the site to have a look at your data and decide for itself.
“If the machine is not sure, that’s when it directs you to click on lightroom pictures of fire hydrants that aren’t there.”
This explanation has resurfaced because of a TikTok video by Australian radio presenters Fitzy and Wippa, where they discuss it during their show.
The video has garnered over 311,000 likes and has left internet users surprised, plus worried about their internet history.
@fitzyandwippa Did you know this? ??? #fitzyandwippa ♬ original sound – Fitzy & Wippa
“That feels illegal,” comments one person.
A second user asks: “So a robot is checking if I’m a robot.”
Someone else says: “The first I hear this. Done quick research, unfortunately, appears true.”
“Surely that’s against my rights as a person,” a fourth user comments.
Another person asks: “Is this for real?”
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However, some people have disputed this claim and explained that it doesn’t just mean that.
One person writes: “Has nothing to do with history, but it checks mouse movement from the original state to box [goal] and compares it to a bot (straighter line than humans).”
Another adds: “It doesn’t work that way. They collect data through cookies no matter whether you ticked or not.”
A third person says: “Nope. Not true. It can not see your search history. What it will do is analyze your mouse movement and behaviour on the website.”