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“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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