The term “dark patterns,” though it may conjure up images of spycraft (or even black magic) refers to user interface (“UI”) design techniques that are designed to manipulate and deceive users into taking courses of action that they might not have otherwise taken. The term was coined by Harry Brignull in 2010, a user experience consultant, and has gained increasing attention in recent years as a concern in the field of design ethics. They can take many forms, such as hiding important information, confusing users with misleading visuals or wording, or making it difficult to cancel or unsubscribe from a service. Such patterns are often used by companies to increase sales, gain more user data, or promote engagement on their platforms. Importantly, they can have negative impacts on user trust and satisfaction.
Although arguably the entire history of consumer protection law has been a story of combating dark practices in the physical world under different names, in recent years, there has been a growing explicit focus on the negative impact of dark patterns on user trust and behavior online. As a result, there have been several efforts to combat these deceptive practices. Perhaps most explicitly, in 2019, the U.S. Senate introduced the DETOUR Act (Deceptive Experiences To Online Users Reduction), which aims to prohibit the use of dark patterns and other deceptive design practices in online interfaces. This is reflected in other initiatives worldwi...
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