DES MOINES — Attorney General Tom Miller has asked the Federal Trade Commission to strengthen and update its guidance on digital advertising disclosures. Miller, along with Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, led a coalition of 17 attorneys general in recommending improvements to deal with the emergence of deceptive design tactics known as “dark patterns” in the marketplace. online and digital.
On June 3, 2022, the FTC issued a request for information and public comment to revise, update, and modernize its trade guidelines titled “.com Disclosures: How to Make Effective Disclosures in Digital Advertising.” The guide was first published in 2013 to help companies create and publish advertising and information that is federally compliant and clear and transparent, so consumers can make informed choices.
Since 2013, the digital market has changed dramatically. Smartphones and mobile devices are ubiquitous, and social media networks are a great place for companies to advertise their products. Many consumers buy goods through online marketplace platforms that host an assortment of third-party sellers. All too often, attorneys general have observed that unscrupulous companies use manipulative and deceptive means to target potential customers.
“Dark schemes have been employed for the sole purpose of tricking or manipulating users into behavior that is profitable for the companies marketing them,” Miller said. “As technology and marketing continue to evolve, consumer protections must also evolve. The FTC must create a robust, updated national guideline to address dark patterns.
What are dark patterns and how do they work?
The term “dark patterns” was originally used to refer to “tricks in websites and apps that make you do things you didn’t mean to do, like buy or sign up for something.” Dark patterns come in different forms:
Confirmshaming involves attempts to guilt or shame the user into making a certain selection.
Obstruction forces the user to take unnecessary steps to reject a service, such as making it difficult to cancel a subscription plan.
Trick questions use intentionally confusing prompts. The overall impact is that consumers are made to make choices, and often costly financial decisions, that they otherwise would not have made.
In their letter, Miller and the coalition seek to provide information to inform the FTC’s efforts to update the guidance. The letter provides an overview of academic research on dark motives, as well as existing and proposed state, federal, and international legislation that attempts to define dark motives. The letter also illustrates the types of dark patterns and explains how they can harm consumers in day-to-day transactions.
In addition to making recommendations regarding dark patterns, Miller and the coalition encourage the FTC to consider updates regarding the use of hyperlinks that require a consumer to visit multiple pages to view material disclosures. The coalition is also asking the FTC to clarify the guidelines that apply to multiparty sales platforms and provide expanded guidance on using plain language. In addition, the coalition recommends making the guide available in a user-friendly format, web or mobile.
Miller and Raoul join attorneys general from Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon , Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin, as well as Hawaii. Consumer Protection Office.
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