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DARK PATTERNS

WHY IN NEWS?

  • Recently, the Department of Consumer Affairs, released the draft Guidelines for Prevention and Regulation of Dark Patterns, 2023 issued under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 prohibiting platforms from engaging in any dark patterns.

WHAT ARE DARK PATTERNS?

  • A dark pattern refers to a design or user interface technique that is intentionally crafted to manipulate or deceive users into making certain choices or taking specific actions that may not be in their best interest.

  • It is a deceptive practice employed to influence user behaviour in a way that benefits the company implementing it.
  • Deceptive patterns (also known as “dark patterns”) are tricks used in websites and apps that make you do things that you didn’t mean to, like buying or signing up for something.
  • Dark patterns can range from subtle omissions to outright lies.

ABOUT DRAFT GUIDELINES:

  • The guidelines are applicable to a wide range of entities, including digital and online platforms such as mobile apps and websites, as well as advertisers and sellers operating in the digital space.
  • They explicitly prohibit dark patterns cited earlier.
  • The government reserves the right to update the list as necessary.
  • Engaging in dark patterns can result in penalties under the Consumer Protection Act 2019.

ISSUES WITH DARK PATTERNS:

  • Dark patterns exploit human psychology for the sole purpose of encouraging people to act against their best interests.
  • Dark patterns make customers unhappy and cause them to lose trust in a business.
  • By using such dark patterns, digital platforms infringe on the consumer’s right to full transparency of the services they use and control over their browsing experience.
  • This not only compromises user autonomy but can also lead to financial losses or unwanted sharing of personal information.

TYPES OF DARK PATTERNS:

  • False urgency: It is creating a false image that a product is in limited supply and a customer would be missing out on a big opportunity by not buying it or taking the deal. Basket Sneaking: This refers to adding products to a customer’s cart before checkout without obtaining their consent.
  • Forced Action: When a platform makes you do extra things, like buying another product, to get what you originally wanted.
  • Subscription Trap: Makes canceling a paid subscription hard or hides the cancel option, or requires payment info for a free trial.

  • Nagging: It’s bombarding a user with requests or interruptions that aren’t related to why they’re using a platform.
  • Disguised Advertisement: Hides ads as different types of content–like pretending an ad is a user’s post or a news article.

ADDRESSING DARK PATTERNS:

  • The USA’s DETOUR Act aims to put restrictions on large online platforms, prohibiting them from using deceptive user interfaces to trick consumers into taking actions they might not intend to take.
  • In India, companies are being asked to desist from using such tactics in the e-market and on June 30, 2023, as per information by the PIB.
  • Major Indian online marketplaces received a letter from the Department of Consumer Affairs warning them against engaging in “unfair trade practices” by implementing “dark patterns” in their user interfaces to influence consumer choice and infringe on “consumer rights” as stated in Section 2(9) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019.
  • The Department of Consumer Affairs and the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) recently held a joint consultation with stakeholders on the menace of ‘dark patterns’.

WAY FORWARD:

  • Digital spaces are always going to be a major part of our lives. Recognizing and fighting against dark patterns helps pave the way for a more ethical and transparent online environment.
  • Ensuring transparency, deployment of fair practices and upholding consumer autonomy to make free and informed choices, are some of the principles that can create a safer online ecosystem.

SYLLABUS: MAINS, GS-3, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

SOURCE: THE HINDU

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