Story so far: Some Internet-based companies trick users into agreeing to certain terms or clicking on some links. An unsuspecting user would not have accepted such terms and clicked URLs (uniform resource locators), but due to deceptive tactics deployed by technology companies. , users’ inboxes are flooded with unwanted promotional emails, making it difficult to unsubscribe or request deletion. These are examples of “dark patterns”, also known as “deceptive patterns”.
What is a dark pattern?
Such patterns are unethical user interface designs that intentionally make the Internet experience difficult or exploit the user. This, in turn, benefits the company or platform that employs the design.
By using dark patterns, digital platforms deprive users of their right to complete information about the services they are using and reduce their control over their browsing experience.
The term is credited to UI/UX (user interface/user experience) researcher and designer Harry Brignull, who has been working on cataloging such patterns and the companies that use them since around 2010. I made it.
How do companies use dark patterns?
Social media and big tech companies such as Apple, Amazon, Skype, Facebook, LinkedIn, Microsoft, and Google use dark and deceptive patterns to degrade the user experience in their favor.
Amazon came under fire in the EU for its complicated, multi-step cancellation process for Amazon Prime subscriptions. After contacting consumer regulators, Amazon this year eased the cancellation process for online customers in European countries.
On social media, LinkedIn users often receive unsolicited sponsored messages from influencers. Disabling this option is a difficult multi-step process that requires the user to be familiar with the platform controls.
Dark Patterns on LinkedIn | Photo Credit: LinkedIn
As Meta-owned Instagram shifts to video-based content to compete with TikTok, users are complaining that they see suggested posts they don’t want to see and can’t set preferences permanently.
Another dark pattern in the application is that sponsored video ads are interspersed between the story and the reel the user initially chooses to view, fooling them for a few seconds before the small “sponsored” label appears. That’s it.
Dark Patterns for Instagram Ads | Photo Credit: Instagram
YouTube, owned by Google, prompts users to sign up for YouTube Premium with a popup and obscures the last few seconds of videos with thumbnails of other videos. This is a way of disrupting what should otherwise be a smooth user experience.
Dark Patterns on YouTube | Photo Credit: YouTube
What do users lose with dark patterns?
Dark patterns make internet users’ experience compromised and more vulnerable to financial and data exploitation by big tech companies. Dark patterns confuse users, cause online failures, waste time on simple tasks, make users sign up for services and products they don’t need, pay more money than intended, or lead to more personal attacks. or share information.
In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission [FTC] We focus on dark patterns and the risks they pose. In a report released in September of this year, regulators identified over 30 dark patterns, many of which are considered standard practice on social media platforms and e-commerce sites.
These include “baseless” countdowns for online transactions, fine print terms that add costs, making cancel buttons harder to see or click, making ads appear as news reports or celebrity endorsements, automated Includes playing videos and forcing users to create accounts. It completes the transaction, silently charges the credit card after the free trial ends, and uses dull colors to hide information the user should know.
In one example, an FTC report outlined a lawsuit filed against Amazon in 2014. This is a supposedly “free” children’s app that tricks young users into making in-app purchases that must be paid for by their parents.
“Once the account holder downloads the app and the children start playing the game, without the account holder’s knowledge or by tapping a button, the children earn $0.99 each, without the account holder’s involvement. We were able to make multiple claims ranging from $99.99 to $99.99.These purchases were disguised as play,” the release said.
The lawsuit was settled after Amazon agreed to refund more than $70 million.
However, dark and deceptive patterns are not confined to laptops and smartphones. An FTC report warns that as the use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) platforms and devices increases, dark patterns are likely to lure users into these new channels.
Internet users who are able to identify and recognize dark patterns in their daily lives can opt for more user-friendly platforms that respect their choices and privacy.