Clusters of Dark Patterns Across Popular Websites in New Zealand

‘Dark patterns’ are interface design techniques that aim to trick or mislead Internet users. Most dark patterns research has been undertaken in the United States and Europe and by User Experience or Human Computer Interaction researchers. In this paper, we adopt a media and communication studies and science and technology studies approach to investigate where dark patterns ‘cluster’ in online environments. A walkthrough of the top 100 New Zealand websites leads us to the following findings: 1) dark patterns cluster around financial transactions; 2) the most common types of dark patterns constitute a form of interface interference; and 3) dark patterns are often deployed as mechanisms to drive revenue, facilitate customer surveillance, and reduce business operations costs, and appear to be largely imported from overseas markets.

Tales From the Dark Side – Final Research Report

This report summarises our research on dark patterns and data privacy in Aotearoa, New Zealand. It provides also an overview of dark patterns scholarship, describes our methodology and results, and offers recommendations for future research on privacy and design ethics in New Zealand.

“It’s Like the Wild West”: User Experience (UX) Designers on Ethics and Privacy in Aotearoa New Zealand

The degree to which User Experience (UX) designers unfairly steer users’ behavior through the use of ‘dark patterns’ is a topical and contentious issue. Scholarship has largely assumed that designers are complicit in manipulating the user and undermining their privacy. In this paper, we investigate privacy dark patterns and report on interviews conducted with UX practitioners, describing three findings: (1) designers feel motivated to act ethically due to their ‘moral compasses’; (2) designers are restricted in their ability to act ethically due to commercial pressures and a limited purview of the project; (3) designers’ understanding of the ethics of their practice do not currently match determinations made by international privacy and design scholars and demonstrate a limited understanding of how user behavior can be shaped that, in turn, obfuscates beneficial privacy outcomes for users. We conclude by outlining the benefits of independent regulation and progressive ethics education in UX.

Other research on dark patterns

What are dark patterns? Harry Brigull on dark patterns

The UXP2 lab lead by Colin Gray at Purdue University have conducted research and created resources about dark patterns

Media articles

The ‘dark patterns’ used by shopping sites to make you spend more, Radio New Zealand, August 2020

How Facebook and Other Sites Manipulate Your Privacy Choices, Wired, August 2020.

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