CAPTCHA stands for completely automated public turing test i.e. its function is to determine whether I am a human.

Some CAPTCHA images are pictures of house numbers taken from Google street view.

When you fill in these CAPTCHAs, Google is using you to translate an image into digital text for free when they would otherwise have to pay someone to do it.

I just discovered that you can fill in these incorrectly (there may be limits on how incorrectly this can be done) and the webpage will accept it.

Given that the CAPTCHA is purporting that its purpose is to determine whether I am human, telling it lies fulfills that goal because only humans lie. May I prove my humanity without letting Google freeload off of me by telling it lies?

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    I would think so. You aren't representing to Google that you have entered the numbers correctly, you are certifying that you are human. As long as you are human, it isn't Geneivas Daas.
    – Yishai
    Jun 25, 2014 at 13:21
  • What you are asking seems to be a larger scope question, namely, can you lie to a machine? If the machine doesn't respond, are you really "lying". My opinion is yes, you are lying because lying means not telling the truth regardless of what or who the recipient is. After all, God knows that you lied, right?
    – DanF
    Jun 25, 2014 at 13:24
  • NM. I now realize it is not permissible because when you click the help button it tells you that they are using you for a purpose. Lets now make the question an academic one by pretending there is no disclosure. Jun 25, 2014 at 13:59
  • Any answer here will have to explain what "lying" means in a halakhic sense. Jun 25, 2014 at 14:00
  • To clear a misconception about this case in particular, Google does not rely on single answers but rather aggregates a good amount of data. Once they have a "generally agreed-upon" answer, they do not accept wrong answers for that image. Jun 25, 2014 at 14:03

1 Answer 1


Vayikra 19:11 - "Do not steal and do not deceive or lie one person to his neighbor". The commentary Ohr Hchayim explains that the mitzvot in this verse is written in plural, unlike those that are written in the verses either before or after it. This is to point out that even if your neighbor steals or deceives, you should not imitate him.

Granted, Captcha is a computer program, but humans designed it, and the "Googlers" (my name for those in charge of Google) designed the program and are doing something with the data, so they are human. So, in keeping with the explanation in this verse, even if the Googlers deceived or lied via Captcha, it does not give you permission to do likewise.

Having said this, inherent in your question is another - "Am I allowed to lie to protect myself?"

That's a separate, general question which you didn't directly ask, here. However, in your comment, you indicated that Google's HELP screen does tell you what they do with your information, so you are aware of what is happening (I assume). Whether their help screen is, itself, "deceptive" can be debated. Nonetheless, since you do know what is happening, by answering CAPTCHA, you are well aware of the risks involved.

Lastly, as a general web user, I think that you are also aware that nothing is completely "safe" anyway. Let's say you faked out CAPTCHA. How do you know that Google isn't figuring out who you are by placing multiple cookies on your computer?

BTW - In order to post my answer, I have to answer CAPTCHA, too. So, I know that I'm taking this risk, and I couldn't lie to the computer no matter how hard I tried. CAPTCAH is smarter than me, here!

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    Google knows exactly who you are in extremely creepy ways.
    – Scimonster
    Jun 25, 2014 at 17:01
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    Pretty much EVERY web site is spying on you. I ordered ink from Staples. After completing my order, I went to Yahoo mail, and guess what the side ad was? Yep, Do I want to buy more ink from Staples? Yahoo spied on what I was doing.
    – DanF
    Jun 25, 2014 at 17:52
  • Well, does Yahoo use their own ad system or Google's? Because so many sites track you via Google, so Google tracks you by extension, and personalizes your ads.
    – Scimonster
    Jun 25, 2014 at 18:25
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    I don't think this question has anything to do with "who you are" or privacy, but about turning CAPTCHA results into profit. ((On privacy, but off-topic here, let me plug Duck Duck Go... Read why at donttrack.us)) Jun 25, 2014 at 20:32

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