The Dark Patterns Tipline Wants to Hear How Sites Manipulate You

The Dark Patterns Tipline Wants to Hear How Sites Manipulate You
Graphic: Electronic Frontier Foundation

If you’re fed up with apps and websites using shitty psychological tactics — aka dark patterns — to coerce you into clicking, then good news: there’s finally a way to put them on blast. Consumer Reports teamed up with a cavalcade of researchers and policy wonks to roll out the Dark Patterns Tip Line on Tuesday, a project that seeks to document unreasonably sticky UI across the web as a way to “call out corporations for taking what’s not theirs.”

The platform lets anyone share screenshots of any dark patterns — which the site defines as “design tactics used in websites and apps to persuade you into doing things you probably would not do otherwise” — that they spot in the wild. The site also offers a handy dropdown menu to let you specify how the app or site in question tried to swindle you: if you felt “shamed” or “tricked” or “lost privacy” from one of these patterns, the tipline wants to know.

The team behind the tipline said the platform serves two purposes: to educate everyday people about what these design tactics might look like and create a working archive for researchers and regulators trying to regulate the space.

We’re already getting a taste of what those regulations might look like. Back in March, California amended the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) to officially outlaw companies from using dark patterns to siphon data from unsuspecting users. Not long after, the FTC began seeking public comment for ideas on how the agency should be defining these patterns, and what kind of role regulators can play in preventing them from cropping up. Give the underperforming regulators a helping hand. 


Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.