Dark Patterns

The newly released CPRA draft regulations define dark patterns as:

“A user interface that is designed or manipulated with the substantial effect of subverting or impairing user autonomy, decision making, or choice.“

Commonly seen as a tactic to compel cookie consent, dark patterns can take a variety of forms:

  • Only providing an ‘Accept’ button on a cookie consent banner
  • Forcing users to click through multiple screens to reject cookies, while allowing them to accept with a single click
  • User interface language that encourages teens to lie about their age in order to sign up for an app
  • An unsubscribe button that’s purposefully difficult to find or see (buried in a paragraph of text and/or using a low-contrast text color)
  • Not providing a button to close an account and/or forcing users to call a company representative

According to Harry Brignull, a UX specialist, dark patterns are “the ways in which software can subtly trick users into doing things they didn’t mean to do, or discouraging behavior that’s bad for the company.”

Dark patterns exist on a spectrum in terms of malicious intent. Staying subscribed to a newsletter you signed up for but no longer enjoy is one end, while accidentally allowing a company to collect, store, and sell your personal data is on the other.

Additional resources about dark patterns