California Bans Companies From Using Sneaky Dark Patterns

Dark patterns mislead website users into doing things they don't mean to.
Loukia Papadopoulos

You might have never heard of dark patterns before, but you most certainly have encountered them. They are website designs that can confuse or trick users into consenting to things they don't mean to; such as letting a company utilize/commercialize their personal information. They can be annoying at best and quite damaging at worst.

Now California has ushered in a bill that bans all dark patterns, Business Insider reports. Any business that uses dark patterns will receive a 30-day window to change their website design or become "liable for a civil penalty under laws relating to unfair competition in an action to be brought by the Attorney General," the new law states.

The term dark patterns was first coined by UX specialist Harry Brignull. It refers to several practices such as when websites make it difficult to unsubscribe from a service, when websites misdirect users' focus, and when websites make it difficult to compare the prices of things.

"California is at the cutting edge of online privacy protection, and this newest approval by OAL clears even more hurdles in empowering consumers to exercise their rights under the California Consumer Privacy Act," Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a release. "These protections ensure that consumers will not be confused or misled when seeking to exercise their data privacy rights."

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And Becerra is not alone in wanting to get rid of the dangers of dark patterns. Both Democrats and Republicans are calling for greater regulation over dark patterns. Senators Mark Warner, a Democrat, Deb Fischer, a Republican, and Rohit Chopra, a Federal Trade Commission commissioner, have all sought actions against the irritating practice.

This is a great step for California, one that Washington may be following soon as senators introduced a similar bill earlier this year. The only question we have is when will this spread globally?

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