FTC audit of websites and apps finds three-fourths use dark patterns to trick consumers
2024-7-11 04:31:24 Author: therecord.media(查看原文) 阅读量:4 收藏

A Federal Trade Commission (FTC) review of hundreds of websites and apps revealed that more than three-fourths of them use so-called dark patterns to trick consumers into sacrificing their privacy or purchasing products they don’t need, the agency said Wednesday.

The annual review, which concluded in February, studied 642 global websites and subscription-based mobile apps, examining the practices of companies worldwide alongside authorities from 26 nations. Sixty-seven percent of them were found to have deployed multiple “possible” dark patterns, while 76% used at least one.

Two types of dark patterns were most frequently detected, the agency said.

“Sneaking practices,” which involve obscuring or postponing the sharing of information that might influence consumers’ purchasing choices, were used by many of the audited websites. “Interface interference” — defined as tactics which hide critical information or “preselect” choices, pushing consumers to make decisions favorable to a given company — were also commonly used, the agency said.

The FTC did not determine whether the practices were illegal in the more than two dozen countries studied.

The agency is increasingly focused on the impacts of dark patterns and has recently punished businesses that use them with staggering financial penalties.

In March, the FTC finalized an order fining Epic Games, the maker of the popular Fortnite video game, $245 million after the company settled allegations that it used dark patterns to dupe players into making purchases they didn’t want. 

“How much money can a company take in by selling virtual costumes, dance moves, and piñatas shaped like llamas?” the agency asked in a press release at the time. “It won’t surprise Fortnite fans to hear that the answer is billions, especially when, as the FTC alleges, Epic used a host of digital design tricks… to charge consumers for virtual merchandise without their express informed consent.”

In 2022, the agency also published a staff report focused on dark patterns, highlighting many previously under-the-radar techniques.

The results of the review come as the FTC takes the helm of the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN), a worldwide coalition of consumer protection regulators representing more than 70 countries. 

ICPEN coordinated the audit with the FTC and the Global Privacy Enforcement Network (GPEN). The latter deployed 80 privacy enforcement authorities to assist in the review.

GPEN homed in on websites and apps using dark patterns that could spur individuals to turn over more personal information than they would like to. Its privacy-focused review also found that a majority of sites in a wide range of countries deployed at least one privacy-related dark pattern.

“While there were no findings as to whether any of these instances rose to the level of law violations, the collaboration underscores the ways dark pattern techniques may impact not just consumers’ wallets but also their privacy choices,” the FTC said in a news release.

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Suzanne Smalley

Suzanne Smalley

is a reporter covering privacy, disinformation and cybersecurity policy for The Record. She was previously a cybersecurity reporter at CyberScoop and Reuters. Earlier in her career Suzanne covered the Boston Police Department for the Boston Globe and two presidential campaign cycles for Newsweek. She lives in Washington with her husband and three children.

文章来源: https://therecord.media/ftc-audit-finds-dark-patterns-global