What are Dark Patterns, why websites and apps make you say “Yes” when you want to say “No”

The Patterns Dark or Dark Patterns in English, is a term coined in 2010 by Harry Brignull term, to which dedicates a page web. But these manipulation tactics are very old.

Can a website or app get you to accept something you don’t want? The answer is yes, and they will use the most creeping but effective psychological tricks to get there.

The Patterns Dark are ways to manipulate people so that, before a decision, choose the option you want, even if they are against. When a person has to decide between a Yes and a No, their answer can be influenced in many different ways. The most basic is to adulterate the question so that one answer seems very good and another very bad. Or use terms so confusing that you don’t know which answer is Yes, and which is No.

A fairly simple example is the one we see every day when a website asks us to accept cookies. Here we see the Cookies window that Facebook uses:

Facebook, of course, wants you to accept cookies so that it can spy as much as it can. And here we see the first Dark Pattern: It does not give you the option to Accept or Not Accept.

Dark patterns, Facebook cookies
Facebook Cookies

It offers you a bright, beautiful, fast and direct blue button to accept all cookies, psychologically hinting that it is the right thing to do, and it only takes a second. And an off, gray, loser button with a long boring-sounding name: Manage data settings.

And then comes the second Dark Pattern: it doesn’t give you an alternative Don’t accept button, like the other, but it puts you in a window full of boring text where you have to read lengthy explanations and press several buttons depending on whether you want to share one thing or another.:

The objective is clear: that you get bored of reading and directly accept cookies. The old trick of lifetime contracts.

As the Vox website explains in its report on Dark Patterns, Facebook’s sister social network, Instagram, also uses this technique, but in a different way.

When it asks you to accept its privacy choices, it uses confusing terms . He calls tracking you “activity“, and collecting your likes to generate publicity, “personalize” or “better experience“. So it asks you with a bright blue button if you want a “better experience” and “more customizable ads” as if it were a good thing, that you control, when in fact you are giving it permission to track and store your likes and your activity.

Instead, a black and off button called “Less customizable ads” is presented as the bad option, when the reality is that it tracks you as little as possible.

We have given two well-known examples, but there are dozens. From apps that threaten to disable functions if you do not accept tracking to ads that hide the X button to close the window, or is so tiny that when you try to touch it, you touch the ad and open it.

Or the streaming platforms themselves such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, etc., which offer you a free trial but automatically subscribe you, and when the trial ends they charge you the next monthly payment by default.

It is becoming such a serious problem that in some places, such as California, they have already begun to regulate Dark Patterns, according to the Vox website.

It is rare that the European Union, which is a pioneer in online privacy issues, has not yet touched on the subject. But seeing how users continue to be manipulated to collect data, and at the same time this data is made public, as has happened with the recent leak of 533 million phone numbers and personal data from Facebook, it is necessary to put a siege to these Dark Patterns, who seek to manipulate people for their own benefit.

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