covert crowdsourcing

Productive work is increasingly getting rolled into captchas and games. For example, reCaptchas, the next generation of captchas, present two skewed words bisected by a line, both of which were taken from the Internet Archive's project to scan public-domain books. “One word is known to the computer; the other couldn't be read by the Archive's scanners, so when you type it in you're doing a tiny bit of work for the project” (Wired, 06.25.07).

But captchas/games-cum-productivity could get hairy. What if private actors start disguising work as captchas/games in a feat of covert crowdsourcing? What if, in order to pay our bills online, we must unknowingly do work for Wells Fargo; work that their employees were once paid for? When productive work is performed unknowingly, where does economic value go? And might this sci-fi paranoia spawn some kinda ‘Captcha Code of Conduct’?

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