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NAI Comments: Bringing Dark Patterns to Light: An FTC Workshop

At a time when Americans are spending more time than ever on connected devices, this discussion
about “dark patterns” is important and timely. While there are different definitions of this term, and
even various taxonomies to compare and contrast specific practices,1 dark patterns are generally
defined as techniques intentionally used to mislead or manipulate users, obscuring, subverting or
impairing consumer autonomy, decision-making, or choice. An implication of this common definition is
that the end result of the manipulation is a harmful or undesirable outcome for the user. As the
Commission considers the complex issue of dark patterns and user interfaces (UI) more broadly, it is
essential to draw a clear line between practices that harm consumers, and those that are little more
than a nudge seeking to achieve a business purpose, particularly where such purpose is consistent with
the objectives and preferences of its users. Such practices can be analogous to those in the physical
world, product placement by a retailer to promote certain products over others. In these comments, we
also explore the so-called “light” or “bright” patterns, which pose their own unique challenges for both
users and regulators.

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