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Spammers outsourcing to India?

Some among us are inundated on a daily basis with unsolicited email messages. A client of mine receives no less than 300 per day. To untangle the legitimate messages from the not-so-legitimate email messages is a daily, time-consuming task he’s surely loathed to perform. For those like me that ‘blog, there’s a similar threat to productivity, one taking the form of comment Spam.

However, there are measures in place to prevent unsolicited correspondence from getting through. This electric wire fence principally takes the form of a:

“’captcha’ (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) … The captcha is the junk filter’s last resort. Because it’s easy and cheap to program machines to post any sort of junk on blogs, a captcha (which puts numbers or letters in an image, which a machine in theory can’t read) shows whether you’ve got a real live person giving their thoughts, or just a dumb machine trying to up some spammer’s search-engine ranking.”

As of writing this article, no one has yet managed to write a piece of software capable of reproducing the ability of the human eye to scan this ambiguous image to retrieve the smattering of letters and numbers hidden with the image.

But what happens if there’s just no need to replace the human eye? Additionally, what happens if this particular human eye is for hire, and it’s a cheap one at that?

“I spoke with someone who does blog spamming for a living – a very comfortable living, he claimed. But he said that the one thing that did give him pause was the possibility that rival blog spammers might start paying people in developing countries to fill in captchas: they could always use a bit of western cash, would have the spare time and, increasingly, cheap internet connections to be able to do such tedious (but paid) work.”

To compound matters, and to chill the blood in your veins to a heart-stopping red sludge:

“Elsewhere this week, deliveries began of the hand-powered laptop, Nicholas Negroponte’s computing gift to the developing world.”

So while we wave goodbye to call centers in India with one hand, we clench a tight, white-knuckled fist with the other as we brace ourselves for the possible consequences of what else might be emerging from Asia…

By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

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