A new tip line lets people submit examples of dark patterns online. Here’s what that means.
Many companies routinely rely on design features that deceive, coerce, or manipulate us online. They ask us to sync our contact list or allow cookie tracking while hiding options that would enable us to decline; they convince us to buy things by pitching a product as available in limited supply or “for a limited time only” when that is not actually the case; they sign us up for subscription services and then make it extremely difficult for us to unsubscribe. All of these are examples of what have come to be known as “dark patterns”—user interface designs that benefit online companies at our expense.
To better understand the universe of dark patterns, Stanford University’s Digital Civil Society Lab (DCSL) now hosts the Tip Line. Lucy Bernholz, the director of DCSL, and Jennifer King, privacy and data policy fellow at the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence, are coordinating the project.
Here, King describes the increased use of dark patterns, plans for the Tip Line, and her hopes for future regulation of dark patterns:
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