How Dark Patterns F*ck With You!

Published On August 6, 2021 | By Tom Huskerson | News and Analysis, Now You Know

Sit up and pay attention because there are some things you need to know. Websites are using dark patters to f*ck with you and get you to do things you may not want to do and can’t undo.

Dark patterns are website design elements that hide things or misdirect your attention or gaze, and even outright deceive you when visiting a website. The purpose of dark patterns is to trick you into making unintended and possibly harmful choices or keep you from doing something that the company feels is not to its advantage. For example have you ever tried to close your account at Amazon or Facebook? At Amazon its damn near impossible and you can’t do it yourself. You have to get the company to do it for you. And Facebook will only suspend your account for certain period of time and if you log back on during that period your account becomes active again. Back to square one.

 

Dark patterns are all about an unpleasant and manipulative experience on a a website. Have you ever heard the term “stickyness” when referring to a website? That means the website holds you and keeps you from leaving either with compelling content or just plain dirty tricks. Example; you click on a link in the website and it opens another browser window. Its not what you were looking for so you close the window and try to go back to the original websites only to find that back button launches another browser window. Its get pretty stupid after a few tries.

Dark patterns are common in many websites and apps you use everyday. They are very hard to spot, by design, and meant to deceive you. While secretly stealing your personal information dark patterns can also create frustrating  inconveniences or even serious harm. Dark patterns use deceptively labeled buttons causing you to make choices that are difficult to undo. They are also graphical elements of a website like colors and shading that create confusion.

Imagine clicking on a link for a free subscription or access to a website only to discover that you cannot unsubscribe? The inability to unsubscribe from an online service can cost you money that you may never get back. You may end up spending money you never intended. And some companies are absolute masters of ignoring your protests and demand for a refund. But dark patterns are dangerous for other reasons.

Dark patterns are a form of emotional manipulation. A website may use a countdown clock to add pressure for you to act before a good deal disappears. This creates pressure to make a decision before you have time to think about what you are doing. Dark pattern also create privacy issues for the user of certain apps.  Such as when apps make it hard to for you to turn off certain data collection services. Or apps that demand access to your camera, microphone or contacts or they don’t work.

Dark patterns are there and you have been fighting them without even knowing you’re in war. Lets take banking for example. Banks will offer a customer services like a credit score apps, auto insurance online quote processes or an online tax service. All nice to have but here is the catch. They will sign you up for a free subscription only to begin billing you after the free term is up without warning.

Perhaps you decide to do some shopping online and see a great price advertised for designer shoes. But when you arrive at the website the website cleverly demands you surrender your email address and other information in return for the discount code. They may even require you to open an account just to get the sale price. If you really want the shoes you are extorted for your personal information.

Websites use all sorts of tricks of design to hide things that should be obvious. Have you ever noticed how small  the “unsubscribe” link is on junk email? Or websites that require to go through multiple steps to finally unsubscribe? Some websites will force you to go through multiple steps to get what you are looking for or scroll for what seems like forever to find something. This is a common way to falsely inflate website visit numbers.

Dark patterns are not illegal but they are close to the line. Sometimes they hard to spot and other times they become a serious threat to your money or privacy. You can report dark pattern activity to the Dark Patterns Tip Line.

Remember, dark patterns are not illegal but they are close to the line. The Dark Patterns Tip Line is not a law enforcement agency but if you find a dark pattern that you believe violates the law file a complaint with your state Attorney General who enforces consumer protection statutes against unfair, misleading, and deceptive acts and practices. Learn more and get in touch with your AG here: https://www.consumerresources.org/file-a-complaint/

Now you know

 

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About The Author

Tom Huskerson Bio Born in Richmond Virginia Tom Huskerson is a military veteran who settled in California after his discharge. Tom attended Santa Barbara City College where he began his writing career as a campus reporter. He worked as an intern news reporter for the Santa Barbara News-Press writing feature stories before moving on to San Francisco. At San Francisco State University Tom studied broadcast communications and began to focus on the Internet. He completed his graduate thesis on Internet advertising. Tom was the first student to ever focus on the Internet as a graduate student at San Francisco State University. After graduation he went to work for Zona Research in California’s Silicone Valley. As a research associate Tom supported senior analyst writing on the latest developments in the Internet industry. During the dot com boom Tom worked for several web businesses as a market researcher and analyst. As a writer and researcher Tom has authored various technical works including a training program for Charles Schwab security. Other projects included professional presentations on workplace violence and hiring security contractors. Tom has also written both fiction and non-fiction works and blogging for a travel website. He has published two books of short stories and completed two novels. Tom is the owner of Scribe of Life Literature and EbonyCandle.com. Tom is not the chief editor for the OnTechStreet. com. A news and information blog that focuses on tech news for African-Americans. The blog is the result of his desire to inform the African American community of the dangers and benefits of the cyber age. In his blog Tom reports on information security, new and analysis, scams and hoaxes, legal happenings and various topics that arise from the age of information. Tom believes that technology is a necessary tool for black people and they should know what is happening. Tom writes believing that techno speak is for the professional and that valuable information can be communicated using plain language. As a result he has embraced the motto, Less Tech, More Knowledge.

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