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Dark patterns: from "good, beautiful and cheap" to internet manipulation

Dark patterns are surprisingly effective in getting consumers to do things they won't do when exposed to more neutral user interfaces. Credit: shutterstock

On April 10, 1938, Hitler made a referendum: "Do you agree with the reunification of Austria with the German Reich that was promulgated on March 13, 1938 and vote for the party of our leader, Adolf Hitler?" ballot designed for the occasion. Under this question, the square of the s. In the lower right, the insignificant square of the

The ballot paper used by the Nazis in 1938The ballot paper used by the Nazis in 1938

This Nazi triquiuela demonstrates that techniques to confuse users, hinder the expression of their preferences or
inducing them to an election that goes against their interests has always existed. Now we call them
dark patterns and roam freely on the internet. "It has always been that way and always be because, after all, to capture a customer in a competitive market, you cannot be flat. That is not bad. The problem comes when that practice of persuasion attempt goes beyond and there is a hoax or a pressure that is excessive, "explains Stella Solernou, professor of Commercial Law at the University of Deusto.

Two researchers from the University of Chicago have just
determine the effect of these pressures on the internet environment: "Dark patterns are surprisingly effective in
get consumers to do things they won't do when exposed to more neutral user interfaces. "Jamie Luguri and Lior Jacob Strahilevitz confirmed their suspicions by submitting 1963 people to three different shopping experiences for the same service, a protection plan against data theft and impersonation.

Reject it if you can

In the first scenario, a neutral purchase in which the participants can consult the offer and accept or decline without more, only 11.3% of them hired the service. A second proposal was made a little more difficult to reject (and not because of the advantageous conditions, remember that the service is the same).

Once the offer was seen, consumers had two alternatives: "accept and continue" – which also appeared marked by default and with the recommended label – and "other options". "We made it easier for users to accept the program and more difficult to reject it," they said. In addition, there was still a way to definitively refuse, on the next screen, users should check the option "I do not want to protect my data or my credit history" and once this was done, they still had to explain why. Under these conditions, the percentage of acquisitions is doubled (25.8%).

Dark patterns are the digital version of old tactics used to influence consumer behavior, such as products related to impulse purchases placed near cash registers or used car decoy ads.Dark patterns are the digital version of the old tactics used to influence consumer behavior, such as products related to impulse purchases placed near cash registers or seuelo ads for used cars

The most aggressive dark patterns were used with the third group. By indicating that you do not want to protect your data, users are forced to go through several screens with information on why they should do so. After this, two options were presented: "accept the protection plan and continue" or "read more information". In addition, those who would like to continue without making the purchase had to wait 10 seconds.

After this time, the final screen showed the following text: "If you reject this service, our corporate partner will not be able to help you protect your data. You will not receive protection for identity theft and you could be one of the millions of Americans who were affected by this last year, are you sure you want to reject this program? " The possible answers – "No, cancel" or "S" – were intentionally convoluted, so that by selecting the first, they ended up accepting the program. After this strategy of harassment and demolition with dark patterns, 41.9% of users agreed to purchase: the cudruple of those who would have done so without mediating external pressures.

Maturity Matter

"I think that the big difference is that in the analogous world the users are much more mature, we have much more experience because of the journey we take," Solernou reasons. In line with this idea, the University of Chicago study found that users with a lower educational level were more likely to accept the program once a certain pressure was applied. In contrast, in the absence of dark patterns, there were no differences. "It is not that the techniques have really changed, it is that in the technological world you are not prepared. There is a lack of knowledge on the part of the user," adds Solernou.

That lack of knowledge also extends to the tools we have to defend ourselves once we have fallen into the trap. "Both European and American legislation already contemplate the prohibition of these behaviors," says the teacher. "Ah, the deceptive practices, silks and aggressive practices that are the ones that ultimately use these dark patterns are already contemplated."

Are these bans enough? "Many times not. Here the consumer associations, which are increasingly organized, could have a very important job of studying these practices. They are also entitled to demand that companies do these things. For the consumer it is more complex You make a cost-benefit analysis and many times it does not compensate you to get into that eggplant. "


. Dark patterns: from "good (t) beautiful and cheap" to internet manipulation – LA NACION