In a report released a few months ago, the Norwegian Consumer Council accused Facebook and Google of manipulating users into sharing data with the use of so-called “dark patterns,” such as deceptive wording and mystifying interfaces. Users are compelled to accept privacy options which clearly favor these companies rather than users, the NCC established.
The NCC in their opinion claim these companies do not provide their users with actual choices, also their employing of dark patterns is clearly a violation of the General Data Protection Regulation which was implemented a few weeks ago across Europe to protect users.
The dark patterns which comprise of: hiding privacy – friendly choices; providing deceptive privacy-intrusive default settings; as well as making users feel they are in control of their data but in the real sense they are providing them with a take-it-or-leave-it option. Efforts are not required by users which are not supposed to be the case in Privacy-friendly options.
The NCC alleged that Facebook and Google have been controlling users into sharing their information which clearly signifies lack of respect for their privacy, personal data and the individuals using their platforms. This manipulation has been made possible by simply giving users the only option of either accepting their policy or get their accounts deleted in most cases.
Should Facebook and Google be found guilty of these accusations, they may be fined up to 4% of their annual global turnover or 24 Million dollars
The NCC made a call for the European Data protection authorities to take a swift investigation into this issue to ascertain whether these online giants are acting in agreement with the U.S. and GDPR rules. This organization has been joined by various consumer and privacy groups across the United States and Europe.
The NCC concluded that the default setting provided by Facebook and Googles with respect to data collection and user data sharing only favors them and does not favor the end user, in most cases the least-friendly privacy options are pre-selected and most users rarely change them. These options should not be set as defaults, NCC claimed.
These companies intentionally garnish the words in a bid to manipulate users into believing that they benefit from sharing their data, they present this to users and make them believe that sharing of personal data, as well as routinely targeted adverts, benefit the users whereas in the real sense it benefits the companies, a user will surely receive lost functionality warnings if he or she opts for severe privacy controls. This is truly worrisome and clearly violates the General Data Protection Regulation.
In their report, the NCC particularly accused Google of discouraging users from taking control of their settings or making changes as well as making users feel the default settings benefits them whereas it benefits the company.
They also noted that users are not given considerable choices on Facebook.
However, he praised Microsoft for giving equal choices by providing privacy-friendly and unfriendly options which are applicable in Windows 10 operating system privacy settings.
Deception Patterns Used
The people in Europe are not the only ones affected by this report.
Essentially, ‘dark matter’ states list of conventional practices which has been around for years among Web companies that survive through advertising revenues – especially Facebook and Google. But with the recent EU’s General Data Protection Regulation implementation these functions are outlawed which therefore means offending companies should be hit with significant fines if they fail to scrub these outlawed functions off their sites.
Sadly, these dark practices have become so mundane and become very hard for these companies to scrub them off, this is because monetizing data has made these companies increasingly successful.
These companies have built extremely influential platforms and businesses with their ‘users’ data, they have become public utilities and are operated like a business, according to NCC.
“Facebook and Google should be customer- friendly as well as being extremely customer-first focused, their method of collecting user data should clearly reflect these aspects and they should be more concern on customer satisfaction other than theirs.
Josh Crandall, principal analyst at Netpop Research said that most tech companies conceal the user data collected and use it for more profit-oriented activities which may not be appreciated or accepted by most users.
These Dark patterns could well be eliminated completely in United State and Europe if the fines are severe and strict, companies will know their limits and give users friendly options.
It is reported that Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and others are putting in considerable efforts to resolve the issue but how soon is yet to be ascertained. This also is an issue that likely defines a kind of ‘turn off the spigot’ solving but it is also risky to be ignored by these companies, surely these issues will be addressed properly and rectified.
This also serves as a wake-up call for smaller companies because, from all indications, the NCC alongside other General Data Protection Regulation watchdogs will not stop with only these big fishes i.e. Facebook etc., they are likely to shift their attention to other companies sooner or later. User-friendly policies should be the core of every company if they are to adhere to the General Data Protection Regulation.
Deceptive and misleading policies should be scraped off and the idea of pre-selecting options only beneficial to the company should be completely eliminated.