Why is it in the news?
Recently, the Centre has introduced draft guidelines for the prevention and regulation of “dark patterns” on the Internet, with a focus on e-commerce platforms.
Definition of Dark Patterns
- Dark patterns are defined in the draft guidelines as practices or deceptive design patterns using user interface or user experience interactions on any platform.
- These patterns are designed to mislead or trick users into actions they did not originally intend or want to take, thus impairing consumer autonomy and choice.
- Dark patterns are considered as misleading advertisements or unfair trade practices, violating consumer rights.
Types of Dark Patterns
The draft guidelines identify various types of dark patterns, including:
- False Urgency: Creating a false sense of urgency.
- Basket Sneaking: Adding additional items to the user’s cart during checkout without their consent.
- Confirm Shaming: Using fear, shame, ridicule, or guilt to influence user decisions.
- Forced Action: Forcing users into actions that require buying additional goods.
- Subscription Trap: Making cancellation of paid subscriptions difficult.
- Interface Interference: Manipulating user interface elements.
- Bait and Switch: Advertising a particular outcome based on user actions.
- Drip Pricing: Not revealing all price elements upfront.
- Disguised Advertisement: Presenting content as non-promotional when it’s advertising.
- Nagging: Persistent and annoying prompts.
The guidelines are intended to be applicable to all individuals and online platforms, including sellers and advertisers.
- Some experts caution that enforcing these guidelines might be challenging, particularly in cases where determining whether a practice qualifies as a dark pattern is not straightforward.
- For instance, accurately assessing the legitimacy of claims like “only 2 rooms remaining – book now!” may pose challenges.
How Companies, including social media and Big Tech firms, employ dark patterns for their benefit?
- Faced criticism in the European Union for a complex cancellation process for Amazon Prime subscriptions.
- They later simplified the process in 2022 for online customers in European countries.
- Users often receive unsolicited sponsored messages from influencers.
- Disabling this option is a challenging process that involves multiple steps, requiring users to be familiar with platform controls.
- Google-owned YouTube:
- Nags users to sign up for YouTube Premium through pop-ups that obscure the final seconds of a video with thumbnails of other videos.
Global efforts to combat dark patterns
- California, USA: Passed amendments to the California Consumer Privacy Act in March 2021, prohibiting dark patterns that obstructed consumers from exercising their privacy rights.
- United Kingdom: Issued guidelines in April 2019, later enforceable under the Data Protection Act, 2018, to restrict companies from employing manipulative tactics to attract underage users into low privacy settings.