Nebraska Senator seeks to ban dark patterns

Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) introduced the DETOUR Act, the Deceptive Experiences to Online Users...
Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) introduced the DETOUR Act, the Deceptive Experiences to Online Users Reduction Act. (Source: Gray DC)(GRAYDC)
Published: Apr. 29, 2019 at 4:22 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

The term dark pattern may be an unfamiliar term to you, but chances are you have experienced it online.

Have you ever subscribed to a free trial, and then when it was over, your credit card was silently charged without any warning? You try to find an easy way to cancel the subscription, but can’t.

Did you ever find hidden delivery charges and fees added to your online order that you didn’t expect?

These are just a couple of examples of what’s called dark patterns.

Dark patterns are designed by companies to trick you into agreeing to things you don’t want while they secretly collect your personal information.

“We don’t believe that this is proper and people need to be able to make wise choices on the Internet,” said Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE).

Nebraska's Fischer (R-NE) is joining forces with lawmakers to ban dark patterns.

“We need to know what’s going on as consumers so we have control over our own privacy,” said the Senator.

The bill takes aim at large online companies with hundreds of millions of monthly users.

The legislation would require companies to alert its customers they are monitoring their online behavior.

Harry Brignull, the man who coined the term dark patterns, calls the digital world the wild west. He said companies are constantly watching how we react to a post or if we click on a certain ad. Brignull said the bill is a step in the right direction, but it falls short of solving dark patterns.

“If a user receives an email or some sort of message saying here are the experiments you participated in, it’s going to be a very long, small print document with lots of esoteric, strange technical words that will be hard for that user to understand,” said Brignull.

Brignull said online users will eventually ignore these messages, taking away the goal of the bill—to keep people informed.

Copyright 2019 Gray DC. All rights reserved.