Bringing Dark Patterns to Light

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It’s like a scene from an Indiana Jones movie. Our hero enters a cave in search of treasure and every labyrinthine turn poses another unexpected hazard – trip-wired blades, runaway boulders, and snakes (“I hate snakes”). But we’re not talking about a rollicking adventure flick. We’re describing the experience of many online shoppers as they navigate some companies’ websites to avoid digital danger – for example, extra items showing up in a consumer’s cart, unauthorized charges, or the unintended disclosure of personal information. That’s the topic up for discussion on April 29, 2021, at Bringing Dark Patterns to Light: An FTC Workshop.

The workshop will explore the ways that some websites and apps employ user interfaces that could have the effect – intentionally or unintentionally – of impairing consumer choice. Researchers, legal experts, consumer advocates, and industry professionals will discuss what dark patterns are and the impact they have on customer experience. Among the subjects the event will consider are:

  • how dark patterns differ from analogous sales tactics used by brick-and-mortar stores;
  • how they affect consumer behavior, including potential harms;
  • whether some groups of consumers are unfairly targeted or could be especially vulnerable;
  • applicable laws, rules, and norms; and 
  • whether additional rules, standards, or enforcement efforts are needed to protect consumers.

In advance of the workshop, the FTC is seeking research, recommendations for discussion topics, and requests for panelists. Please email any relevant information to darkpatterns@ftc.gov by March 15th.

We’ll also be posting a specific request for comments related to dark patterns. You can submit comments by June 29, 2021, to that same email address.

Interested in attending? Bringing Dark Patterns to Light will be held virtually on April 29th. Bookmark the event page to watch the webcast from a link that will go live moments before the event convenes. Follow the Business Blog for updates about the request for comments and the agenda.


 

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