Identifying dark patterns

Dark patterns are generated using the colored buttons that appear when installing programs or apps. They are also observed when entering some websites. These buttons guide the user to the one that “is most convenient for us to press.” The inconvenience occurs when the web uses the buttons to take us “where they want.” This action constitutes a dark pattern and is a trick used by websites, programs, and applications to induce the user to register, buy something, or provide data.

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The detail is that these actions are activated against the user’s will. This happens because websites and apps take advantage of the fact that most users do not read all the things on the pages or elements that are shown to them. 

There are various dark patterns that lead users to “click” where they do not want and to provide information unintentionally. An example of this is when accepting the terms of use; at that moment, they are presented as mandatory when they are actually optional.

Examples of dark patterns

A case of dark patterns is represented by Amazon Prime. At the time of subscription, users have to click a button to access the free 30-day trial period. The situation becomes unpleasant when trying to avoid charging those test days. They guide users through two or three different pages to affirm that “do not want to continue enjoying the benefits of Amazon Prime” when the truth is that users do enjoy the full trial period.

Another button is found once the free trial has ended and wants to cancel Amazon Prime renewal. The trick used is that, during the trial period, a button is displayed on the web to indicate that the Prime service is going to continue. That button can be seen in various places on the page. If users do not want to renew and click on the aforementioned button by mistake, it will automatically renew and charge the fee.

How to identify dark patterns

Bear in mind that the dark pattern strategy is based on distracting the user. The design of the web takes that as a premise and consciously makes users focus their attention on one thing to distract from another.

To achieve their goal, they use the following tricks:

  • Bait and Switch (lure and switch)
  • Spam friend
  • Covert advertisements
  • Forced continuity
  • Hidden costs

To avoid falling into these tricks, be very alert when browsing a website. Read all the information carefully, and avoid clicking a button automatically. It is best to be vigilant and navigate wisely.

Keep in touch with our blog to read the latest news and innovations in the cybersecurity world. 

Dark patterns

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