On social media, shopping sites, and even childrens’ apps, companies are using deceptive user experience design techniques to trick us into giving away our data, sharing our phone numbers and contact lists, and submitting to fees and subscriptions. Everyday, we’re exploited for profit through “dark patterns”: design tactics used in websites and apps to manipulate you into doing things you probably would not do otherwise. 

So today, we’re joining Consumer Reports, Access Now, PEN America, and Harry Brignull (founder of DarkPatterns.org), in announcing the Dark Patterns Tip Line. It’s an online platform hosted by Consumer Reports that allows people to submit and highlight deceptive design patterns they see in everyday products and services.

Your submissions will help privacy advocates, policymakers, and agency enforcers hold companies accountable for their dishonest and harmful practices. Especially misleading designs will be featured on the site.

Dark patterns can be deceptive in a variety of ways. For example, a website may trick visitors into submitting to unwanted follow-up emails by making the email opt-out checkbox on a checkout page harder to see: for instance, using a smaller font or placing the opt-out in an inconspicuous place in the user flow. Consider this example from Carfax

 "Send me special offers and other helpful information from CARFAX" checkbox, already ticked to agree by default.

The screenshot was gathered from a Reddit user u/dbilbey to the Asshole Design subreddit community in September 2020.

Another example: Grubhub hid a 15% service fee under the misleadingly vague  “taxes and fees” line of its receipt. 

 "This 15% helps Grubhub cover operating costs."

The screenshot was taken directly from the Grubhub iOS app in September 2020.

You can find many more samples of dark patterns on the “sightings” page of the Dark Patterns Tip Line.

The process for submitting a dark pattern to the Tip Line is simple. Just enter the name and type of company responsible, a short description of the deceptive design, and where you encountered it. You can also include a screenshot of the design.  Submitting to the Dark Pattern Tip Line requires you to agree to the Consumer Reports User Agreement and Privacy Policy. The Dark Patterns Tip Line site has some special limitations on Consumer Reports' use of your email, and the site doesn’t use cookies or web tracking. You can opt-out of some of the permissions granted in the Consumer Reports Privacy Policy here.

 "The box did not allow me to unsubscribe" and the category "felt tricked" selected.

A sample submission to the Dark Patterns Tip Line.

Please share the Tip Line with people you think may be interested in submitting, such as community organizations, friends, family and colleagues. For this period, the Dark Patterns Tip Line is collecting submissions until June 9th.

Help us shine a light on these deceptive designs, and fight to end them, by submitting any dark patterns you’ve come across to the Dark Patterns Tip Line.

Report Dark Pattern

Help us shine a light on these deceptive designs

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