What are dark patterns? How websites can trick you intentionally?

Website users who are exposed to dark patterns are more likely to make unintentional and perhaps dangerous decisions as a result of the misdirection, coercion, and/or deception that dark patterns provide.

Dark patterns may be seen on many different types of websites and are utilized by a variety of different organizations. They take the shape of misleadingly labeled buttons, choices that are difficult to reverse, and graphical features like color and shading that draw users’ attention to or away from certain alternatives.

Due to the widespread availability of online subscriptions and free trials for a wide range of goods and services, dark patterns in subscriptions are a frequent example of these types of design decisions. If a consumer encounters this kind of dark pattern, it may be difficult for them to cancel their membership, or it may automatically convert their free trial into a paid subscription.

Designer and public interest technologist Stephanie Nguyen and a few collaborated on the publication of the zine I, Obscura to show how prevalent these types of design practices are, as well as the many damages that they may create.

Several case studies of various dark patterns are included in the zine, along with recommendations for what can and should be done to safeguard consumers from harmful practices. I, Obscura was created with the assistance of student writers Ryan Tan, Kaylee Doty, and Kally Zheng, as well as with the support of the Stanford University Digital Civil Society Lab and the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry, among other partners.

Dark Patterns: What it means and why it matters

Individuals who are unable to cancel their subscriptions to services incur a particular monetary loss: they are forced to pay money that they did not want to spend. Dark patterns, on the other hand, may create a variety of additional problems.

When a website puts a countdown clock on an offer to expedite a customer’s decision-making process, even if time does not affect the sale or the usage of the goods or service, this is referred to as emotional manipulation. In certain cases, the damage may be a loss of privacy, such as when a mobile application requires users to switch off data gathering in two separate locations rather than making privacy settings easily accessible.

As a result of the power imbalance that exists between users and organizations, it is virtually difficult for people to defend themselves against deceptive design techniques consistently. We developed I, Obscura to assist educate online users about the possibilities available on the internet.

In addition, consumer protection is critical to the success of any business. Many consumer protection laws have been enforced by the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general against businesses that use deceptive design techniques, particularly those that develop applications that are aimed at minors. For legislators to be effective, they must ban the use of dark patterns and impose requirements on organizations to ensure that interactions are as clear and straightforward as feasible.

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