‘Dark patterns’ on the Internet
#GS-03 Science and Technology, Cybersecurity
- Dark patterns also known as “deceptive patterns” are unethical user interface designs which are aimed to exploit the user or make a person’s browsing experience harder.
- Using dark patterns, the digital platforms are taking away a user’s right to full information about the services they are using and their control over their browsing experience.
- This term was coined by Harry Brignul who is a UI/UX (user interface/user experience) researcher and designer.
How it works:
- It works by creating convoluted terms and conditions which users have to agree to or forcing users to click on unnecessary urls (uniform resource locator).
- These results in user’s inboxes getting flooded with promotional emails they never wanted and making it hard to unsubscribe or request deletion.
Examples of usage of Dark Patterns:
- Amazon was heavily criticised by EU for its confusing, multi-step cancelling process in Amazon Prime
- EU consumer regulators have been able to make the cancellation process easier for online customers in European countries.
- LinkedIn users often reported of receiving unsolicited, sponsored messages from influencers which requires a difficult process with multiple steps to disable.
- Instagram has been known to show suggested posts that the users did not wish to see with no way to permanently set preferences.
Issues with Dark Patterns:
Dark patterns make the users more vulnerable to financial and data exploitation by Big Tech firms.
Federal Trade Commission [FTC] of United States have identified over 30 dark patterns which are considered standard practice such as:
- “baseless” countdowns for online deals,
- conditions in fine print that add on to costs,
- making cancellation buttons hard to see or click,
- making ads appear as news reports or celebrity endorsements,
- auto-playing videos,
- forcing users to create accounts to finish a transaction,
- silently charging credit cards after free trials end, and
- using dull colours to hide information that users should know about.