When it comes to manipulating user behavior, Facebook and other tech giants have a scary array of tools at their disposal. However, perhaps none are as insidious as the use of shady design tactics — or “dark patterning” — to squeeze more information out of users.
Facebook uses this practice by designing its interface and messaging to encourage people to opt in to its privacy-violating features. For instance, up until recently the company urged users not to opt out of its facial recognition technology, saying that if they did, they would leave themselves susceptible to imposters. These tactics are why two prominent U.S. lawmakers introduced a bill last year called the Deceptive Experiences to Online Users Reduction Act to make it illegal for companies like Facebook to do this.
“Misleading prompts to just click the ‘OK’ button can often transfer your contacts, messages, browsing activity, photos, or location information without you even realizing it,” Senator Deb Fischer wrote last year.
However, experts say that it’s extremely difficult to define what exactly represents a “dark pattern.” In other words, it would be impossible to dictate how Facebook can and cannot design its interface. As a user, it’s best just to assume that the company is trying to obtain more of our data any way it can and proceed accordingly.
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