UCLIC Research Seminar Series
Manipulative and deceptive user interfaces --- the so-called "dark patterns" --- have been the focus of growing scrutiny from researchers, legislators, and regulators. The academic literature on dark patterns has curated collections of objectionable user interface designs, describing them in specific contexts such as privacy settings, online gaming, and online shopping. Regulators in the US and the EU are also beginning to target dark patterns for enforcement actions. Yet as our understanding of dark patterns develops, the question of how we, as society, can best regulate these user interfaces remains open.
In this talk, I will first demonstrate how large-scale studies can help us automatically discover and identify dark patterns on the web. Through three such studies covering online product endorsements, shopping websites, and political campaign emails, I will highlight the landscape of dark patterns on the web and their widespread prevalence. I will show how such studies can shine a light on the entities that use dark patterns and help regulators hold them accountable. In the second half of the talk, I will outline the normative underpinnings of dark patterns, describing why they should concern us. I will describe how we can gather empirical evidence that surfaces the harmful effects of dark patterns on individuals and society. I will conclude with how the HCI community can be the champion of this research that helps mitigate the spread of dark pattern user interfaces.
Arunesh Mathur is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Center for Information Technology Policy (CITP) at Princeton University. Mathur's research examines the societal impacts of technical systems through an empirical lens. He received his PhD from the Department of Computer Science at Princeton where his dissertation research showed how commercial, political, and other powerful actors employ dark patterns to exploit individuals and society. Mathur is the recipient of several best paper awards, the Privacy Papers for Policy Makers Award, and the SIGCHI Outstanding Dissertation Award.