FTC to Hold Virtual Workshop Exploring Digital “Dark Patterns”

dark webImage by Gerd Altmann

WASHINTON, D.C. — The Federal Trade Commission will host a virtual workshop on April 29, 2021, to examine digital “dark patterns,” a term that has been used to describe a range of potentially manipulative user interface designs used on websites and mobile apps.

“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. For example, some sites sneak extra items into a consumer’s online shopping cart, or require users to navigate a maze of screens and confusing questions to avoid being charged for unwanted products or services.

The FTC workshop will bring together researchers, legal experts, consumer advocates, and industry professionals to examine what dark patterns are and how they might 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.
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In addition, the FTC is seeking research, recommendations for discussion topics, and requests for panelists in advance of the workshop. Please email any relevant information to [email protected] by March 15, 2021.

The FTC will also be posting a specific request for comments related to dark patterns. Comments should be submitted by June 29, 2021 and submitted via email to [email protected].

The workshop will be held virtually and webcast on the FTC’s website at FTC.gov. Additional information including a list of speakers, an agenda, and the request for comments will be posted in the coming weeks to the event page.

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