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Count humans, not bots

News, 24 December 2015

DETROIT: Publishers might usefully consider identifying human visitors to their sites rather than bots, a new study has argued.

Are You A Human Inc. tracked visitors on over three million websites in nearly 200 countries and determined which ones were clearly exhibiting human behaviour for The State of the Human Internet Report 2015.

This found that 42% of 3.2bn impressions, from more than 600m devices, could be verified as coming from humans. The remainder could not be verified: the assumption was that they are likely to be bots.

Even then there are good bots and bad bots, with the former including those like Google trackers which help populate the online giant's eponymous search engine or retailers' pricing bots which check competitors' pricetags.

Ben Trenda, CEO of Are You A Human, told Marketing Land that attempting to identify bots was a never-ending process as the bad ones were always changing and rarely lasted longer than six days. But of those it did identify, the good:bad split was 48:52.

He argued that a Verified Human whitelist would lead to fewer, annoying screening procedures such as image captchas and security questions.

This would require the placing of code on millions of sites and analysing user behaviour to collect "fingerprinting metrics" which distinguish between humans and bots; humans get added to the whitelist and are re-verified through their daily usage patterns.

The report also threw up some interesting category and geography figures. For example, those sites with the highest levels of Verified Human Activity (VHA) were .gov sites (71%) while the lowest were .info sites (3%).

Looking specifically at the US, Oregon and Virginia were found to have significantly below-average VHA levels – 23.8% and 28.6% respectively compared to a usual figure in the range of 40% to 54%.

One reason may be that those two states house Amazon Web Services' hosting facilities, which the report said were used by companies to host software "programs for malicious purposes".

Data sourced from Marketing Land; additional content by Warc staff