Deb Fischer among policemen who listen to alarms on "dark patterns", a web design trick | legislator

WASHINGTON – Two US Senators Unveiled New Legislation Tuesday targeting what they say is disabling tricks, employed by websites and technology companies, designed to mislead or confuse Internet users to give away their rights and choices as consumers.

The bill is another salvo in a wider congressional attempt to seal into the technology industry, whose data breaches and other privacy incidents have called for stricter regulation of Silicon Valley.

Legislation, known as the DETOUR Act and introduced by Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va, and Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Zero on a phenomenon called "dark patterns": The different ways Web designers subtly control users toward completing certain transactions, such as signing up for an email newsletter , purchase or consent to the collection or sharing of personal information.

The rise of dark patterns reflects how technology companies have increasingly made human psychology a moneymaking tool ̵[ads1]1; at the expense of consumers' ability to make truly informed choices, Fischer said in a statement.

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"Misleadingly asking to just click the" OK "button can often transfer the contacts, messages, surfing activity, photos or location information without even understanding it," she said.

On Tuesday, Warner was launched in a series of tweets showing how dark patterns usually exist over the Internet.

But dark patterns, and the logic behind them, are hardly a new idea. More than a decade ago, the University of Chicago economist Richard Thaler and Harvard University lawyer, Professor Cass Sunstein, contributed to shed light on the psychological aspects of decision making with their 2008 book "Nudge."

The book examined how "electoral architecture" or how the choices are presented to consumers, can greatly shape their subsequent behavior. Examples were how companies by automatically registering their employees in a 401 (k) could help increase Americans' pension savings.

How businesses ask consumers to make choices online is becoming increasingly important because more companies are turning to personal information as a business model, analysts say. Nowhere is it more apparent than in the technology industry, where giants such as Facebook and Google have built multibillion dollar products out of the data generated when users click on ads and enter keywords.

Without mentioning these companies in particular, Tuesday's bill seems to focus on the largest technology companies, which intend to make it illegal for companies with more than 100 million users to create user interfaces "for the purpose or the significant effect of hiding, undermining or weakening user autonomy, decision making or choice to obtain consent or user data. "

According to the proposal, there will also be a need for technical firms to set up independent auditing forums associated with those in colleges that monitor human research studies. to perform user engagement tests. 19659003] "Our election architectures are just totally confused and overcast by the little tricks companies play to get you consent, though you may not want to," said Paul Ohm, a lawmaking professor at Georgetown University, at a Washington Digital Conference privacy Tuesday hosted by the Federal Trade Commission.

The Internet Association, a trading group representing Silicon Valley's largest companies in Washington, refused to comment.

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