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How Design Can Decieve and Lure Data Out Of Us

There are many examples of bad design. Unethical design and even illegal design, where services are trying to lure more data out of us than necessary. A really good report from the French Data Protection Agency CNIL is addressing this.

SnapMaps is a ‘service’ where users can tell all or part of their friends where they are. Thus these friends can see your little avatar on the very concrete address you are on. It is fun to look at, at though it is opt-in, many SnapChat users have no idea that they are not only giving their constant location to selected friends, but also giving it to SnapChat to capitalize on and sell on to third parties. SnapChat must also be full aware of the fact that many of their users are below 13 years though SnapChap of course have terms of conditions where they write off any responsibility for that. SnapMaps is a very good example of deceptive unethical design. It is luring kids and other users into giving away their very valuable location data – for a fun service which they believe they are in control off.

The French data protection agency, CNIL, is very aware of deceptive design practises.

“The techniques of playing with our attention and our cognitive biases to develop manipulative and/or misleading interfaces have a direct impact on our ability to uphold our rights. We are so influenced and trained to share more and more, without always being aware, ultimately, that we are jeopardising our rights and freedoms. We therefore need to explore how design is used in the production of digital services to understand its positive and negative uses for all of us,” it writes in a very good report ‘Shaping Choices in the Digital World‘ from January 2019. All designers, engineers and others working with digital design, should read this.

Here are some of the tips of what is bad unethical design luring data out of us:

Safety Blackmail: At the login, requesting additional information to what is strictly necessary for the service in situations where users are under pressure, when they have just entered or renewed their password, updated their profile information or placed an order.

Default Sharing. Pre-checking information sharing options, which will not always be unchecked when signing in

Attention Diversion. Drawing attention to a point of the site or screen to distract you from other points that could be useful. For example, working on the colour of a “continue” button while leaving the “find out more” or “configure” button smaller or grey.

Blaming the individual. Make the user feel guilty about their choices, by the words used. This is very often used for example by media, when a user refuses advertising tracking or uses an ad blocker.

False continuity: Asking the user to give their address in order to read the article (title) without giving enough clear warning that this is actually a subscription to a newsletter (or in such small writing it cannot be read)

Camouflaged advertising. Advertising is disguised as another type of content or element of the interface, in the hope that the user clicks without knowing that it is advertising.

Get them all here

If you are interested in this topic, do also check out the Norwegian consumer council who did a great ananylis of design that deceieves

And not to forget this brilliant new new report from EDRI on Ethical Web Development