Monday, April 18, 2011

Blogger Does Not Care About Your Telephone Number

Blogger has been using CAPTCHA verification for some time, to identify you as a person, and to make sure that you are not running a computer based script.
  • When you setup a new blog.
  • When you submit a request to have your blog unlocked after being (falsely) classified as spam.
  • When you attempt to publish too many posts in one day.
Unfortunately, spammers eventually figured out how to automate CAPTCHA processing. Besides that, there's the unfortunate detail that solving a CAPTCHA isn't always the best use of one's time, in stressful situations.

Recently, Blogger improved their authentication technique. Besides / instead of using CAPTCHA verification, they now offer us the option of SMS Verification - and for some services, Voice Service based verification. As a first choice, they will send a short text message to a mobile computer, using SMS - and we can reply from the mobile device, or type a reply code into our online display. Alternately, they will call our voice service - and an automated voice will read us a short text message, which we can then type into our online display.

In both cases, they require that we provide a "phone number", so they can contact us. Some blog owners are suspicious of this request - that they should provide a phone number to Blogger, just so they can setup a blog (unlock their blog, publish too actively, ...). Certain that Blogger has a nefarious need to collect their phone numbers, they protest yet another invasion of privacy.

Ignoring the unfortunate reality of the limited reliability of SMS / voice service based verification, the privacy invasion accusations are unfounded. Google only wants to use your SMS or voice based "terminal" as a temporary token, to ensure that you are a person - and not yet another hijacked computer, helping another spammer setup a new splog (unlock a locked splog, over publish another splog, ...).

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