Apple & # 39; s Real User Indicator will tell developers when a new account is actually a bot

Apple says it is building a new tool that calls it a real user indicator and could reduce the number of bots that secretly sign up for new accounts with mobile, desktop and web services.

The feature, announced during the Platforms State of the Union event at the company's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), is intended to check for features that are more similar to bots than people. It then informs an app developer about the situation, so that the developer can then take further action to verify the authenticity of the new account.

"It uses intelligence on the device to determine if the source device is behaving normally. The device generates a value without sending specific details to Apple," an Apple spokesperson said on stage during the event. The value is then & # 39; reduced to one value shared with your app at account setup time & # 39; and & # 39; depending on the value you receive, you can be sure that your user is a real user or receives a notification that you should look a second time. "

It is not clear how Apple generates this value, especially since it does not do so by cross-checking any of the data entered – such as an email address or telephone number – with online data for concern about user privacy. But there are a few options. Intelligence on the device may mean that Apple keeps track of how quickly certain fields are filled in during the sign-up process for new accounts, which could indicate that there is an automated process behind the new account. Apple could also look at factors such as the speed of account verification via e-mail, or even the analysis of typed information for the name or address fields of the sign-up process.

Regardless of how it works, the Real User Indicator can have a major impact on the number of bone accounts that spread through the internet. If it functions as it is designed and is, in fact, a strong indicator of fraudulent or suspicious digital behavior, we could see the internet begin to hit back against the fake activity that permeates every corner of online life. We are already seeing CAPTCHA & # 39; s getting better and better, thanks in part to the progress of artificial intelligence that makes simplifying bottests unnecessary. But if a developer never knows he needs to do more sophisticated testing for new fishy accounts, the bot will come through unnoticed.

New York Magazine& # 39; S Max Read struggled with the problem an article that was published last December under the title, "How much of the internet is fake? Turn-in, much. Actually, Read makes the convincing argument that we are approaching or have already passed an event known as" The Inversion ", in which the fraud detection systems of the largest tech companies will be wrong. activity for the real deal and consider real activity of real people as fake.

That is because the majority of the activity (page views, video views, new accounts, responses, likes, retweets, etc.) does indeed come from bots, bone farms, and botnets rather than people. And without the ability to really distinguish between real users and bots, and because large parts of the internet economy depend on advertisers who don't care about the distinction, the level of fake behavior will only increase, Read theorizes.

"The internet has always played host to schools of catfish and embassies of Nigerian princes in its dark corners," he wrote, "but that darkness now permeates every aspect of it: everything that once seemed definitive and indisputably real now seems a bit fake; everything that once seemed a bit fake now has the power and presence of the real one. "

Admittedly, many large companies, such as Facebook and Twitter, already have internal, AI-powered systems that are designed to crash bots and stop creating automated accounts, and improve those systems. But in an example of the amazing extent of the problem, Facebook said earlier this month removed 2.2 billion fake bills in just a three-month period between January and March of this year. A vast majority of those accounts that were caught by the company's automated fraud systems before the accounts went live.

Facebook data suggests that bone growth is only getting worse, due to a number of factors ranging from the frequency and effectiveness of election interference and disinformation to the countless unauthorized farms designed to perform analytical analysis and sell false marketing results.

It is not clear that Apple's new developer feature will have a significant effect on this worrying trend. The company says it is designing Real User Indicator, not just for iOS apps, but also for apps designed for watchOS, tvOS ones, macOS and even the web, which Apple says will extend the feature to Android and Windows devices.