GS Paper 3
Syllabus: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers
Direction: The article tries to explain the meaning of a relatively new term – Dark pattern on the internet.
Context: Some Internet-based firms have been tricking users by deploying “dark patterns,” which are also known as “deceptive patterns.”
What are dark patterns?
- Naming: The term is credited to UI/UX (user interface/user experience) researcher and designer Harry Brignull, who has been working to catalogue such patterns and the companies using them since around 2010.
- These are unethical UI designs that deliberately make one’s internet experience harder or even exploit them and benefit the company or platform employing the designs.
- Uninformed users would not have accepted such terms or clicked URLs (uniform resource location) if digital platforms had not utilised deceptive tactics.
- Such acceptances and clicks flood consumers’ inboxes with promotional emails they never wanted, making it difficult to unsubscribe or request deletion.
- The Federal Trade Commission of the US listed over 30 dark patterns, many of which are considered standard practice across social media platforms and e-commerce sites.
- These include making cancellation buttons hard to see or click, making ads appear as news reports or celebrity endorsements, etc.
- Amazon was criticised in the EU for their confusing, multi-step cancelling process for Amazon Prime subscriptions.
- Amazon simplified the cancelling process for online customers in European countries this year after consulting with consumer regulators.
What do users stand to lose because of dark patterns?
- Digital platforms take away a user’s right to full information about the services they are using and reduce their control over their browsing experience.
- Endanger the experience of internet users and make them more vulnerable to financial and data exploitation by Big Tech firms.
- Confuse users, introduce online obstacles, and make simple tasks time-consuming.
- Force them to pay more money or share more personal information.
Way ahead: Internet users who are able to identify and recognise dark patterns in their daily lives can choose more user-friendly platforms that will respect their right to choose and privacy.