CONSUMER REPORTS — “Dark patterns” seem to be popping up everywhere, even on mainstream apps and websites. You can often find them when you’re registering for a new online account.
Dark patterns are tricks used by websites or apps to misdirect you or make you do something you didn’t mean to do- such as buying something or signing up for something.
Maybe you have to click a box to keep the company from bombarding you with emails. Dark patterns can also show up when you’re unsubscribing or setting up stricter privacy settings.
And aside from just being annoying, Consumer Reports says these dark patterns can really do harm.
“These manipulative practices can make people pay more than they should for a service, or push them to agree to let a company collect an excessive amount of their personal data,” said Thomas Germain, Consumer Reports Tech Editor.
Another problem some experts warn about is dark patterns disproportionately affecting people of color, in communities where there may be less education about technology, or where some may speak English as a second language.
To combat the issue, Consumer Reports and several partners launched the Dark Patterns Tip Line, where consumers can anonymously submit dark patterns they see online.
“The tip line is meant to help educate consumers and help researchers identify trends, spot repeat offenders, and advocate for better policy reforms,” said Germain.
So, what can you do? CR says learning to recognize different types of dark patterns can help you navigate the web and mobile apps more safely.