5 min read

Fair Patterns: the platform that helps rid the world of dark patterns

Published on
June 8, 2023

Dark patterns, interfaces which deprive users of their autonomy by deceiving or manipulating them into making decisions against their preferences or interests, have been the subject of a great deal of attention. Hundreds of academic papers have been written on the topic since the term was first coined by UX designer and PhD in cognitive neurosciences Harry Brignull in 2010. No less than 16 different taxonomies have been identified by academics and regulators, web crawls have been performed to assess their prevalence, numerous studies have been conducted on harms caused by dark patterns. A truly impressive amount of research. In 2022, the European Commission published an in-depth behavioural study on dark patterns, which revealed that about 97% of European favourite e-commerce sites contain at least 1 dark pattern - and usually a combination of dark patterns, creating a cumulative effect. Focusing on only 3 types of dark patterns specifically relating to consumer protection, the Consumer Protection Cooperation Network also found at least 1 dark pattern in nearly 40% of online shops in early 2023. In the US on the other hand, a web crawl of over 11,000 sites revealed 1818 dark patterns as well as 22 so-called “providers of dark patterns”.

While all of these show that the attention which the complex topic has received is rightly deserved, it also indicates that there is a need for creative solutions to this problem. We believe that it’s not doomed to be this way, and the digital economy does not imply that humans lose their ability to think and make autonomous decisions, just because they go online. This is what makes our new Fair Patterns platform very holistic: it shifts discussions around dark patterns from a problem-focused perspective to a problem-solving one and also equips all stakeholders- users, designers, developers, marketers, product owners…with the skills to fight against dark patterns.
This platform is built on our unique expertise on accessibility of legal content, and user empowerment in data privacy - which got us the 2022 “Most Innovative Project” award by IAPP-, an 18-month research in our R&D lab with experts in neurosciences, UX design, plain language law and privacy, 16 existing taxonomies of dark patterns and over 100 types of dark patterns analysed, 58,000 words written in scientific articles (published as well as incoming ones), and a brand new taxonomy of 7 dark and fair patterns designed to be solution-oriented, future-proof, and usable by all stakeholders.

For each dark pattern, we created a countermeasure, a fair pattern designed to empower users to make their own, informed and free choices.

What's in a name?

We call our platform ‘fair patterns’ because we strongly believe in user sovereignty, users being in control rather than products or services being in control.

We also believe that fairness by design is the way forward if we want a digital economy where humans can thrive. it shows new ways that users can fully exercise their autonomy online. The term ‘fair’ is important because as opposed to dark patterns which put the user, their data and choices against the rest of the world, these put them on equal footing with businesses, providers, and data brokers. The platform features tons of resources including a list of NGOs active in the space, a curated and searchable bibliography, events and conferences, as well as a podcast.

How can you use this platform?

Assess whether your sites, apps or voice assistants contain any dark patterns: We offer auditing services to detect all types of dark patterns, ensure full compliance with existing legislation and to foster user experience.

Remedy any dark patterns with our fair patterns, interfaces that empower users to make their own informed and free choices. We have created so far 23 fair patterns prototypes, and are developing way more. They can easily be tailored to your needs, or entirely bespoke.

Train all stakeholders such as designers, developers, digital marketers, and product owners to avoid creating dark patterns. In addition to this, our platform contains very helpful resources that can provide insight on dark pattern, such as arguments to resist injunctions to create deceptive design, an overview of existing the evolution of the legislation on dark patterns, case law, to help users in reinforcing their right to make solid choices that are only truly theirs.

We believe that fighting dark patterns is something which anyone can do, even if you’re a user who finds yourself in a pickle! This is why we have provided tools to help anyone, and also think that it is important to name and shame sites and apps that feature dark patterns, and hold them accountable by means such as the hall of shame.

Amurabi helped us think out of the box in a very powerful way

Jolling de Pree

Partner at De Brauw

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