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Designed to deceive: The rise of dark patterns is manipulating people

Today, Access Now with Consumer Reports, EFF, PEN America, and DarkPatterns.org are launching the Dark Patterns Tip Line (DPTL), a new online platform for people in the United States to report “dark patterns” they encounter in everyday digital products and services.

Dark patterns are intentional techniques to manipulate people to do things against their will — including language or designs in online interfaces that trick individuals into giving up more personal information or paying for a product they never wanted.

Despite the fact that complaints of dark patterns and their harms are common occurrences, there are scant regulatory efforts to prevent them. The DPTL project will collect, document, and surface real-life harms people experience online to help pressure companies to stop deploying exploitative digital practices.

“Before we are designers, we are humans. User experience and interface design should aim to inform and empower people, not violate and abuse their human rights,” said Sage Cheng, Design and UX Lead at Access Now. “Through the Dark Patterns Tip Line, we intend to understand the harms of design exploits through the lens of individuals who experience them. The platform is grounded in a human rights-centered design methodology, not surveillance capitalist incentives that silently steal people’s personal data.”

The DPTL project provides examples of dark patterns for people to learn how to spot the deceptive tactics. Submissions of the patterns will improve the classification of these manipulative practices to help ensure human rights are at the core of product design.