GDPR. It’s a regulation that was implemented on the 25th May 2018 to improve data protection and privacy. That makes it impossible for businesses and companies to exploit user’s online right?
Unfortunately, their desire to collect as much information and data as possible has led to an overwhelming growth in the number of dark patterns being used. Dark patterns are nothing new but with the introduction of GDPR they are becoming the new method for companies to gain access to as many users data as possible without breaking any regulations.
But what is a dark pattern? And what types should you be aware of?
Here’s our handy guide to dark patterns:
What is a dark pattern:
A dark pattern is a user interface that has been carefully crafted to trick users into doing things they might not want to do, but which benefit the business in question.
Harry Brignull coined the term in August 2010 with the registration of the website darkpatterns.org, with the specific goal of “naming and shaming deceptive user interfaces”.
Types of dark pattern:
- Bait-and-switch patterns advertise a low-priced or free service or product enticing a customer to click on and/or purchase the item.
- Then once the customer attempts to view or purchase it the site will inform them that the product is unavailable or stocked in small quantities.
- After it is apparent the product is no longer available, they are then shown other more expensive products that are similar to the one advertised. Encouraging them to pay more for the same product.
- Invisible Unsubscribe
- As simple as it sounds, and one of the worst and most prevalent types of dark pattern. But still plenty of big well-known companies use them.
- A dark pattern which tries to make it as difficult as possible to see or access the unsubscribe button.
- For example, by making it the same colour as the background colour or formatting it to make it look like it doesn’t have a link.
- Roach motel
- This type of dark pattern resembles a maze, as it’s a straightforward and easy situation to get into that’s hard to get out of.
- For example, a site that allows you to sign-up easily but requires you to send them a physical letter to cancel your subscription.
- This dark pattern presents itself in many different forms from ambiguous contact forms to the use of mixed categories of response.
- The aim of which is to mislead the user into doing things they might not want to do, but which benefit the business in question.
- For example, you’re filling in a contact form and it asks you for your name and email address, after filling it in you press the ‘next’ button. This prompts another page to appear asking you for your phone number with another ‘next’ button displayed as the only option. It’s not clear as to whether this step can be skipped or not. However, by clicking next without entering any details the website will still continue but has tricked you into revealing more personal information.
- Forced continuity
- When users sign up to a free trial period only to find that when the trial period ends and they haven’t cancelled the subscription/membership money is taken from their bank account without prior warning.
- This process may be made worse by the subscription/membership being particularly difficult to cancel.
- Inertia Shopping
- This is where an additional item is added to your online shopping basket without your knowledge, and will only be removed via a confusing or hidden opt-out button.
- This dark pattern has been made illegal in most EU countries, but companies are still using them in altered forms.
- Email hacking & spamming
- No one likes notification or email spam and this dark pattern unwittingly makes you the spammer.
- Apps are a great example of this with many asking you for access to your contacts and then spamming these contacts with invitations and notifications encouraging them to sign up.
- A good example of this is Facebook games, how many times have you received notifications from your friends requesting lives on candy crush or 8 ball pool, etc? Too many times, right?
- Forced disclosure
- This type of dark pattern requires the user to give away their personal information in exchange for access to a free or low-cost service.
- This information may then be sold to advertisers or external companies for profit.
Hopefully by reading our guide you have learnt the basics about dark patterns. Which will hopefully allow you to better identify them, and prevent organisations from tricking you into doing things you might not want to do for their benefit.