Data Privacy Can Be Corrupted by Dark Patterns

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Data Privacy Can Be Corrupted by Dark Patterns

Experts reckon B2B customers must be wary about the choice environment and have the capability to detect, void, and resist manipulations

While privacy is the most pressing issue in the digital economy, there are still many loopholes in the existing and newly formulated data privacy policies. There are regulations about strengthening user control over data but Copenhagen Business School research reveals that user privacy choices can be influenced by cookie banner designers. Through a manipulation experiment on a public website, the researchers analyzed the effect it had on 1493 user interactions with the cookie banner.

The consent management tool, website cookie banner, lets B2B users provide consent for the use of personal data. Manipulating the choice architecture with minimum alterations can create a 17 percent increase in absolute content. Despite an increase, the manipulations can negatively impact users about active data privacy choices. Today, several websites, including online shops, are considering such manipulations to increase sales and deceive B2B customers.

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Experts believe that for a free market to work competently, choice architecture was created for users to make informed decisions. Exploitation in design mechanisms can create complications in the near future. While the manipulations might not be as dangerous as they sound or include malicious intent, they are built using insights from human psychology that empower marketers to understand the thinking process  of the customer- thus allowing them to be coerced easily.

Extensive user data is very important for a better understanding of customer behavior and demands. Consequently, it also helps enterprises improve their marketing and advertising strategy. Experts strongly recommend companies to not manipulate the choice environment as it may only impact their business eventually. Additionally, it goes against the principles of the GDPR and ePrivacy Directive.

Such manipulative choice patterns are called dark patterns. Harry Brignull, a user experience expert designer coined the term. These dark patterns follow several tactics such as price comparison prevention, where the comparison data is so complicated that the B2B customer cannot make informed decisions; misdirection, the UX design is focused on one thing to hide another element; confirm shaming, causing the customer to feel guilty and buy their product or service; and roach motel, where customers are signed up easily but face a hard time trying to cancel subscriptions.

Experts reckon B2B customers must be wary about the choice environment and have the capability to detect, void, and resist manipulations. Focusing on the broader implications of the dark patterns and learning about strategies to avoid them can help create less responsive manipulative decisions that are quite often subtle to detect.

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One helpful strategy is to understand the aggressive design elements and the suggestive, aggressive prompts to pause and consider the possibly corrupted choice environment. Would it be wise to share data with such suspicious activity?

Researchers and IT experts want to create awareness and allow it to be an open topic for debates. They believe that by a conceptual distinction between choice-making and choice outcome architecture, the debate can be more beneficial. Companies should actively participate in the public debate and help construct a conclusion that could help both, them and the customers who want to protect user data.

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