The Dark Pattern Detection Project (Dapde) researches the steering and manipulation of consumers in digital environments.
Consumers regularly find themselves in situations, where they take actions online, like shopping products, consume services or consent to data processing. According to research in behavioral economics, they do not decide fully rationally, but only possess “bounded rationality”. Also, they let themselves be directed by designs. Providers of digital services use this knowledge increasingly skillfully to their advantage when implementing dark patterns. Consumers are virtually powerless when facing such situations. The Dapde project sheds light on this blind spot.
In addition, the Dapde project together with the University Heidelberg develops the foundations of a "Dark Pattern Detection App" together with the regulatory framework. Using AI-based text analysis the "Dark Pattern Detection App" detects instances of dark patterns. Prospectively, the App alters such designs in a way that reflects the needs of each individual consumer.
The "Law/Behavioral Economics" subproject at the German Research Institute for Public Administration (FÖV) provides legal answers to the challenges posed by the exploitation of behavioral deficiencies and the designs of Human-Computer-Interfaces (HCI). The guiding principle here is the realization that consumer protection law, such as the data protection law under the GDPR, is not yet prepared for the phenomenon of dark patterns. It currently builds on the idea of the rational consumer and intervenes in order to achieve informed decisions. However, only a consumer protection law that pays more attention to the only "boundedly rational consumer" can provide effective protection against dark patterns and thereby both strengthen autonomy and enforce regulatory objectives. In case the „Dark Pattern Detection App“ is to generate personalized reactions, this poses a particular challenge from a legal and regulatory point of view, e.g., from the angle of data protection and discrimination, but also from that of competition law - which the subproject also explores.
Dapde informs comprehensively about its research and findings on its homepage. It also creates a platform collecting and cataloguing dark patterns, while providing information about them.
For more information please refer to the Dapde hompage.
Prof. Dr. Mario Martini