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FTC Issues Illuminating Report On Digital Dark Patterns

 |  September 21, 2022

By: Lesley Fair (Federal Trade Commission)

It’s ironic that the only thing clear about digital dark patterns is the FTC’s commitment to protect consumers from the injury they inflict. A new FTC Staff Report sheds light on the ways that marketers can manipulate people into buying merchandise or giving up personal information through the use of dark patterns – a phrase that describes a broad range of deceptive design elements. If your business is involved in web-based commerce, the Report discusses in detail a number of the practices that raise consumer protection concerns.

As the FTC’s 2021 workshop, Bringing Dark Patterns to Light, and recent academic literature establish, dark patterns take on a variety of nefarious guises – for example, hiding the full cost of a transaction behind nondescript dropdown arrows or small icons, sending people on a digital scavenger hunt just to cancel a subscription, using default settings to subvert their privacy choices, or even sneaking stuff into customers’ shopping carts without their knowledge. Dark patterns also may lurk in different locations – behind cookie consent banners, inside kids’ apps, and within “free” offers, to name just a few…