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Can the FTC stop the tech industry’s use of ‘dark patterns’?


You may not recognize the term dark patterns, but you’ve probably seen enough manipulative interfaces to get the idea. A user experience in a site, app, or gadget is constructed to herd customers into following a company’s dictates, even if those will cost people their money or data. Now one of Washington’s consumer regulators is asking how the public sector could address this private-sector plague.

At the Federal Trade Commission’s “Bringing Dark Patterns to Light” online workshop April 29, speakers uniformly denounced these deceptive interfaces in apps, services, and sites. “We increasingly see companies using dark patterns to manipulate consumers into giving up their data,” acting FTC Chair Rebecca Kelly Slaughter said as she opened the online event.

But it was not so clear what the feds should do next, and if any steps would require new legislation to strengthen the FTC.

Dark patterns can take many forms—a tiny “cancel” or “decline” button, a subscription that’s far harder to stop than to start, legalese shown too quickly or in type too small for anybody to scan—but they all serve to condense a customer decision point into a dialog with one button: “submit.”


Read the rest of the article at Fast Company