How Will Social Captchas Affect Facebook Connections?

Facebook is experimenting with enhancing security around user accounts through a socially-enabled login process. Essentially, instead of seeing disguised words, users will see photos of their “friends” and be asked to identify them.

This new mechanism, PC Magazine tells us, will only be shown if Facebook detects unusual activity on your account (for example, logging in in one place then logging in a thousand miles away shortly thereafter). However, the introduction of socially-enabled sign-ins like this raises an interesting question that arose when I chatted with Paull Young last week:

What effect will social captchas have on people who accept anyone’s friend requests?

What about the Scobles, the Shankmans, the Calicanises (sp?)? When you have 5,000 friends on Facebook and you know a small fraction of them, what chance do you stand when faced with trying to identify them in order to log on to the most popular site on the Internet?

My sense is that if social captchas do become more widespread, we’ll see three things:

  1. Built-in options to allow people to narrow the set of their friends who are considered for the captchas
  2. Fewer people accepting friend requests from random strangers
  3. More ‘connectors’ and ‘a-listers’ pushing random requests to separate Facebook Pages

What’s your take? Will social captchas change the way people approach connecting to others on Facebook?

  • Happened to me when I was travelling through Cambodia. Works a treat.

  • They’re already doing this, and it’s causing huge problems. People change their avatars all the time, and more than half the time any given person’s avatar might be a cartoon, cause, child, pet or sports team. On some Saturdays I have a dozen friends who all have the Michigan State Spartan as their avatar. Heaven forbid Facebook should think I am suffering from “suspicious activity” then.

    It’s amazing to me that Facebook doesn’t understand how their own members use avatars. It’s like they never browse their own service! Don’t they know how often some people change avatars, and how often an avatar isn’t a photo of the person who owns the account?

    • That’s a great point that I hadn’t considered. People using photos of things other than themselves may cause big problems with this approach to sign-ins!

  • Anonymous

    Good thing I actually look like this.

  • i think its response is not as positive as it must thought but its true that its causing problems for people who are using avatars as their profile image….

  • Dave, one of my readers asked me a question about captchas and I don’t know the answer. Maybe you do.

    People who are deaf or blind cannot see or hear the captchas. What are the social media sites doing to make it easier for these people to create accounts without hassling with the traditional captchas?

    • Some captcha systems do have a “listen” option (I think recaptcha might)