According to a new study, e-commerce websites make use of 'dark patterns' to influence your purchase decisions and trick you into buying items you don't need. Researchers from Princeton University have discovered 1,841 instances of dark patterns on e-commerce websites. The study reveals 15 types of dark patterns and we are going to be looking at each one of them. But first, you need to understand what dark patterns mean and why you should be aware of such deceptive techniques employed by Internet giants -- before you make any unwanted purchase on e-commerce websites.
This is how Wikipedia defines it: A dark pattern is a user interface that has been carefully crafted to trick users into doing things, such as buying insurance with their purchase or signing up for recurring bills. So how does it apply to e-commerce websites? As far as the practical understanding of the concept is concerned, shopping websites trick users into purchasing unwanted items by playing on their fear of missing out on the best deals and discounts and achieve that by showing customer testimonials, clocks and countdowns, number of people availing discounts on certain items, etc.
The research was conducted on over 10,000 websites and it found out that over 1,200 websites use dark patterns to influence the average user's purchase decision.
"Shopping websites that were more popular, according to Alexa rankings, were more likely to feature dark patterns," the research states.
Researchers also claim to have discovered 22 third-party entities that e-commerce companies use for integrating dark patterns on their websites and some of those entities openly advertise their practices enabling deceptive messages. Techniques detailed in the study include sneaking items into the basket, countdown timer, testimonials on product pages, high-demand message, forced sign-ups, etc.
The New York Times report states that lawmakers have been in discussions about regulating technology companies to limit the use of dark patterns. In April, a bill was proposed in this regard by Republican Senator Deb Fischer and Democratic Senator Mark Warner. If the bill gets passed, it will give the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) more power to regulate the practice.