California is the first state to ban dark patterns. Companies will have 30 days to change their site’s user interface. Violators will face a fine. The California Consumer Privacy Act came into effect on March 15th, 2021.
Dark patterns are behavior manipulations using the site’s interface. The term was coined by UX specialist Harry Brignull, who collects and describes types of dark patterns.
Among the tricks he lists are:
- Price comparison prevention;
- Hidden costs of products/services;
- Disguised ads;
- Roach motel (it’s easy to get into a situation but extremely hard to get out);
- Bait and switch, etc.
According to Brignull, an example of a dark pattern is writing “I’m a bad person” on a reject button (see image below).
The California Consumer Privacy Act doesn’t provide an exact list of dark patterns. The 2019 study by Princeton and Chicago Universities found that approximately 11% of all online stores used dark patterns.
But they are not used by stores alone: for example, in 2018, TechCrunch reported that scammers used dark patterns to force iPhone users to buy apps and sign up for paid subscriptions.
The 2018 study by the Norwegian Consumer Council found that Facebook and Google were using dark patterns to snatch sensitive data from users.
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