The Federal Trade Commission hosted a virtual workshop on April 29, 2021 at 10:30am EDT to examine digital “dark patterns,” a term that has been used to describe a range of potentially manipulative user interface designs used on websites and mobile apps.
“Bringing Dark Patterns to Light: An FTC Workshop” explored the ways in which user interfaces can have the effect, intentionally or unintentionally, of obscuring, subverting, or impairing consumer autonomy, decision-making, or choice. For example, some sites sneak extra items into a consumer’s online shopping cart, or require users to navigate a maze of screens and confusing questions to avoid being charged for unwanted products or services.
The FTC workshop brought together researchers, legal experts, consumer advocates, and industry professionals to examine what dark patterns are and how they affect consumers and the marketplace. Some of the topics the workshop will examine include:
- how dark patterns differ from sales tactics employed by brick-and-mortar stores;
- how they affect consumer behavior, including potential harms;
- whether some groups of consumers are unfairly targeted or are especially vulnerable;
- what laws, rules, and norms regulate the use of dark patterns; and
- whether additional rules, standards, or enforcement efforts are needed to protect consumers.