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Member Alert: FTC “Digital Dark Patterns” Workshop April 29th

FTC: ‘Bringing Dark Patterns to Light: An FTC Workshop’ will explore the ways in which user interfaces can have the effect, intentionally or unintentionally, of obscuring, subverting, or impairing consumer autonomy, decision-making, or choice

The Federal Trade Commission is hosting a virtual workshop on April 29th to examine digital “dark patterns” to examine what they are and how they impact or trick consumers and the marketplace into making unwanted or extra purchases online. Dark Patterns, a term that has started to be used to describe manipulative layouts, language, and designs used on apps and websites which can have the effect of intentionally or unintentionally obscuring important information or impairing consumer decision-making.

The FTC workshop will bring together researchers, legal experts, consumer advocates, and industry professionals to examine what dark patterns are and how they affect consumers and the marketplace. Some of the topics the workshop will examine include:

  • how dark patterns differ from sales tactics employed by brick-and-mortar stores;
  • how they affect consumer behavior, including potential harms;
  • whether some groups of consumers are unfairly targeted or are especially vulnerable;
  • what laws, rules, and norms regulate the use of dark patterns; and
  • whether additional rules, standards, or enforcement efforts are needed to protect consumers.

The workshop will be held virtually and webcast on the FTC’s website at FTC.gov

The FTC has stated that some sites sneak extra items into a consumer’s online shopping cart or require users to navigate a maze of screens and confusing questions or language to avoid being charged for what might be unwanted products or services.

What is interesting is that some state legislative bodies are also looking at factors that can be determinative of a deceptive offer which might be similar to such “dark patterns.”  These factors include: whether cross-references are confusing; sentences are unreasonably long or complex; contain double negatives, or exceptions to exceptions; whether sentences or sections are displayed in a confusing or illogical order; whether offers contain words with obsolete meanings; or words where their legal meaning and ordinary meaning differ.

We will be attending and will report back but please note that the workshop is open to the general public so you or members of your team can listen in and hear directly from the FTC and other speakers on this issue.

The press release and information regarding the FTC workshop can be found at https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/events-calendar/bringing-dark-patterns-light-ftc-workshop

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