When iOS 16 comes out later this fall, you may find that you don’t have to deal with so many pesky CAPTCHAs asking you to slide a puzzle piece or distinguish between a hill and a mountain. That’s because Apple is introducing a feature for its iPhones and Macs called Automatic Verification that lets some sites know you’re not a bot without actually doing anything (via MacRumors†
Apple partnered with two major content delivery networks, Fastly and Cloudflare, to develop the system. When it launches with iOS 16 and macOS Ventura, sites using any of the services to defend against spam should take advantage of the system and stop displaying so many CAPTCHAs. If you pay close attention to how many sites go offline when Fastly or Cloudflare start having problems, you’ll know that this is a solid chunk of the internet that can become significantly less annoying (especially for those who see CAPTCHAs more than average because they’re using a VPN or clearing their cookies often).
While this is far from the first attempt at dumping CAPTCHAs, Apple’s scale means we can actually see some progress this time around. The underlying system, which Apple calls Private Access Tokens, is vaguely reminiscent of its password replacement system. Here’s a very simplified idea of how it works: Your device looks at several factors to determine if you’re human. When you go to a website that would normally ask you to fill out a CAPTCHA, that site may ask your phone or computer if a human is using it. If your device says yes, you will be let through right away.
If you want to take a deep dive into details about the technology, you can watch Apple’s WWDC session on it, read Apple Insider‘s explanation, and check out Fastly’s article about it.
As with most of the new technology it presents, Apple has a privacy story to go with it. The company says that while your Apple ID is used as proof that you’re a real person, your phone or computer won’t send the information (such as your email address or phone number) associated with it. All the site gets is essentially a thumbs up from Apple. Similarly, Apple only knows your device is asking to confirm if you’re human; it doesn’t get any information about who wants to know.
Fortunately for Android and Windows users, Apple is not alone in working on this technology. According to Fastly, Google has also contributed to its development, and the concept of a trusted person who guarantees you’re human is being built into Internet standards. Google started building a similar system in Chrome about two years ago, and while it seems to focus mostly on third-party publishers rather than doing its own verification, I can definitely see it making a system similar to that of Apple for its users.