Apparently, there are several tricks the internet uses to get us to give up our privacy. There are plenty of “dark patterns” that can trick us into handing over our data.
Deceptive designs nudge, trick, and goad you into sharing more than you might intend to online, Professor Woodrow Hartzog argues in his new book, Privacy’s Blueprint: The Battle to Control the Design of New Technologies.
And when you think you’re in control of your own data, you rarely are.
“If you want to know when social media companies are trying to manipulate you into disclosing information or engaging more, the answer is always,” he said. According to ABC, for companies like Google, Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook, which make the majority of their income from advertising, more action equals more data. All the better to understand you and sell that understanding to brands.
Professor Hartzog said consumers need to watch out for the tricks and symbols that denote safety and control (the padlock icon being one of the most common) and ask themselves whether they can be relied on. These tricks of perception of privacy can be “dark patterns”.
A term coined by British designer Harry Brignull, dark patterns are online design choices that obscure and manipulate a website’s true intention or function. Ian Muir, managing director of IDM Design Labs, said these signifiers have had to evolve over time.
In the early days of e-commerce, the padlock and the key were good representative symbols that were also used to suggest legitimacy. “In a broad sense, just having a professional looking site was sometimes a bit misleading, but it was a cue for people to say ‘oh, this must be OK’,” he said.
Hartzog also said companies are “overeager” to let you know you control your own data. Take facial recognition, for example. “If you turn it on, you get all the benefits of facial recognition and the risks that comes with that — if you turn it off, then, like Willy Wonka says, ‘Charlie, you get nothing’,” he said.
And that is just the beginning. For an in-depth look at what other information Hartzog has on how “dark patterns” manipulate our sense of security and privacy, please click here.