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Addressing Dark Patterns

Why is it in the news?

  • The Ministry of Civil Aviation in India is taking measures against deceptive online practices by airlines and travel agents like IndiGo, SpiceJet, and MakeMyTrip.
  • These practices, termed as “dark patterns,” are considered “cybercrime” as they deceive consumers into making unintentional purchases during flight ticket bookings.


Understanding Dark Patterns

  • They are the digital design tactics that manipulate user actions, often viewed as unfair trade practices and potentially as cybercrime.
  • It refers to strategies employed by websites and apps to make users perform actions they did not intend to or discourage behaviours that are not advantageous for the companies.
  • Dark patterns are employed by prominent firms such as Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, and Skype.
  • Example: LinkedIn might send users unsolicited sponsored messages from influencers. Turning off this feature might require navigating a convoluted multi-step process.


Different Forms of Dark Patterns

  • False Urgency: Promotes hasty purchases by falsely indicating urgency or limited availability.
  • Basket Sneaking: Secretly adds extra items or charges during checkout.
  • Interface Interference: Uses design to emphasize certain data while hiding other crucial details.
  • Bait and Switch: Promises one thing but provides something different.
  • Drip Pricing: Gradually reveals or conceals price components throughout the user journey.
  • Other Notable Forms: Forced actions, entrapment in subscriptions, shame tactics for confirmation, hidden advertising, persistent reminders, etc.


India’s Regulatory Steps Against Dark Patterns

  • Established a consultation group to tackle the issue of fake online reviews.
  • Implemented the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) code, which addresses misleading advertisements across different mediums, inclusive of online platforms.

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