By Beni Chugh, Dvara Research & Pranjal Jain, theUXWhale
This paper examines the increasing use of dark patterns in digital interfaces and the concerns they raise for consumer protection. Dark patterns are user interfaces that confuse, coerce, or manipulate users into making a decision that does not reflect their underlying preferences. By exploiting users’ cognitive biases and reinforcing users’ information asymmetry, dark patterns impair their decision-making abilities. They coerce users into disregarding their preferences and acting against their best interests. This can cause significant harm in rapidly digitizing economies and societies. Dark patterns are already being used to steer users to sign up for financial products they may not need. They are also influencing citizens’ political choices and interfering with democratic processes. These incursions into users’ autonomy significantly disenfranchise and disempower them in the digital economy. Further, emerging research suggests that users with lower levels of education and earning lower levels of income are more vulnerable to dark patterns. These findings are crucial for jurisdictions such as India where the use of the internet is fast expanding to rural parts, and there is a rise in first generation users of the internet. Here we analyze the use of dark patterns in digital interfaces and the influence they exert on users’ decision making. It distinguishes dark patterns from persuasive advertisements and sets out a list of common dark patterns to examine their adverse consequences for consumers. It advocates for regulatory intervention to arrest the proliferation of dark patterns on the internet and remedy the power imbalance they have already wrought. It concludes with some open questions that India must contend with when regulating dark patterns.
The full paper is available here.
Cite this item
Chugh, B., & Jain, P. (2021). Unpacking dark patterns: understanding dark patterns and their implications for consumer protection in the digital economy. RGNUL Student Research Review Journal.
Chugh, Beni and Pranjal Jain. “Unpacking dark patterns: understanding dark patterns and their implications for consumer protection in the digital economy.” RGNUL Student Research Review Journal (2021).
Chugh, Beni, and Pranjal Jain. 2021. “Unpacking dark patterns: understanding dark patterns and their implications for consumer protection in the digital economy.” RGNUL Student Research Review Journal.