Legal design » Deceptive patterns
Often referred to as “dark patterns”, deceptive patterns are manipulative design solutions that aim to motivate users to actions that are against their intention and often their personal benefit. Commonly dismissed as unethical among designers, they have a legal relevance as well.
About the name
There is a good reason to not call them “dark” to promote breaking the connotation of dark/black with negative:
The phrase “dark pattern” is …problematic. We really don’t need to be associating darkness with negativity any more than we already do in our language and culture.
…but even from a most practical perspective this not-self-explanatory term is not very comprehensible for those outside a certain bubble:
“Dark patterns“ is a kind of lofty term that isn’t all that clear for those outside the tech bubble. We should call them “manipulative patterns“ to better describe the purposeful *intent* behind them in a way anyone can understand.— Quinn Keast (@quinnkeast) January 29, 2021
I have chosen to use the term “deceptive patterns” wherever possible and only use “dark patterns” when quoting the work of others.
Good explainers to start from
More in-depth analysis
The Dutch DPA has a very workable definition of “deceptive”.
From unethical to illegal
With an increasing volume of GDPR-related court rulings, there is also a growing body of case law stating how deceptive patterns violate the law:
At the same time, there is a lack of specific statements in the applicable laws. While deceptive patterns obviously violate the spirit and the foundations of laws, they are rarely explicitly mentioned as something outlawed:
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I'm Sebastian, Sociologist and Interaction Designer aiming to bring together social science and design for inclusive, privacy-focused, and sustainable "human-first" digital strategies. This is my "digital garden" with carefully curated resources. For a more stream-like outlet, see my journal.