Dark Patterns: The latest threat to consumer interest

Sneha Medda
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Manisha Kapoor Dark Patterns

Manisha Kapoor, ASCI speaks about the recent consumer threat that is Dark Patterns, giving an understanding of what it is, and how brands and consumers both can not fall prey to it.

Social Samosa, in conversation with Manisha Kapoor CEO & SG, ASCI uncovers some common trends seen around Dark Patterns in the Indian landscape and gives insights on the future of this emerging threat.

What are Dark Patterns

Defining the term Dark Pattern, Manisha Kapoor stated that Dark Patterns are deceptive UX/UI patterns designed to mislead users into making choices they would otherwise avoid.

To further simplify the term she explained with examples: 

  • Increase in the price after checkout 
  • Misleading stocks remaining during online shopping

Dark Patterns in the Indian online landscape

“While dark patterns have existed in the Indian market for some time, they have become more and more mainstream now. Dark patterns affect almost each and every one of us” says Manisha. 

She further points out that disguised Ads are another kind of Dark Pattern that has been identified. Adding to this, she mentions how the Ministry of Consumer Affairs has taken up reviews and in particular incentivised them. Kapoor states that these reviews should come with a disclaimer so that it does not directly affect how the consumer chooses to spend their money. 

Explaining how dark patterns can be seen in various sectors - for example with incomplete information about prices. She also points out that not every dark pattern pertains to advertising.

Tips for consumers

  • Paying attention to the minute details provided on the webpage
  • Being more aware and educated about the concepts 

Manisha states that though awareness is a big key to avoiding this threat, burdening the consumer to figure out if advertising is deceptive. She states that there are professionals that are designing these UX platforms and the industry cannot put a disproportionate burden on the consumers to fight very sophisticated algorithms and UI/UX designs. 

Global Fighters

A lot of regulations have to do with data protection and privacy which is another kind of Dark Pattern. Recently FTC put out its own report on the Dark Patterns. The EDP has put out its own set of guidelines for Dark Patterns. These are increasingly coming to play. From an Indian perspective, there’s a task force in works to study these matters states Manisha. 

Talking further on whether the Indian landscape needs an alternative of its own, Manisha states that it is a must and should be more explicit than before. 

Also Read: Dussehra brand 2022 creatives lit up the socioverse

Non-advertising Dark Patterns

  • Privacy checks 
  • Checkout issues 
  • Subscriptions (Globally; two-factor authentication restricts this for the Indian market)

Inclusion in Data Protection Act

“None of us likes to share more data than we have to, none of us like our data being sold. We open our computers and see a site we visited 6 months ago has ten cookies saved” says Manisha. She further states the inclusions she thinks need to be done. 

  • Rejection of Cookies 
  • Privacy to data 
  • Consent 

Checklist for brands 

  • Have genuine respect for your consumers
  • Build brand trust
  • Compromising the consumer experience (principles)
  • Honest about the practices 

The Future  

Concluding the session, Manisha confirms the making of a task force by ASCI where they are looking at Dark Patterns globally and their regulations in which some come under advertising while others don't. 

Talking about decentralization which leads to automation in the advertising sector, Kapoor states, “Formats will keep evolving. A format may or may not be as successful in eliminating dark patterns. More than the format it is the intention that matters.” 

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