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Google, Facebook Have Been Using “Dark Patterns”: Report

The privacy intrusive defaults in Facebook and Google make users who want the privacy-friendly option to go through a significantly longer process

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Google
Google creating publishing platform for local news publishers. Pixabay

Tech giants Google, Facebook and Microsoft have been using “dark patterns” around privacy settings to discourage users in the European Union from exercising their privacy rights, according to a new report by the Norwegian Consumer Council.

The popups from Facebook, Google and Windows 10 have design, symbols and wording that nudge users away from the privacy friendly choices, said the study.

The consumer watchdog studied the privacy settings of the firms and found a series of “dark patterns”, including intrusive default settings and misleading wording, the BBC reported on Thursday.

“The use of exploitative design choices, or ‘dark patterns’, is arguably an unethical attempt to push consumers toward choices that benefit the service provider,” the Norwegian Consumer Council said in its report.

It picked Facebook, Google, and Microsoft for the study as they are some of the world’s largest digital service-providers.

In this study, the Norwegian group looked at user settings updates in the three digital services that relate to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which came into force in May.

European service providers gave users a wide array of GDPR updates. Among these services, users of Facebook, Google’s services, and Windows 10 had to click through and approve update messages as part of the companies’ attempt to comply with the new legislation.

These popups contained references to new user terms, and presented a number of user settings related to the ways that the companies may collect, process, and use personal data.

This is not a problem in itself, but analysis of a sample of settings in Facebook, Google and Windows 10 by the group showed how default settings and “dark patterns” were used to nudge users towards privacy intrusive options.

Facebook mobile app
Facebook mobile app. Pixabay

The privacy intrusive defaults in Facebook and Google make users who want the privacy-friendly option to go through a significantly longer process, the report said.

They also obscure some of these settings so that the user cannot know that the more privacy intrusive option was pre-selected.

“At the same time, we find that the service providers employ numerous tactics in order to nudge or push consumers toward sharing as much data as possible,” the report, titled “Deceived by Design” said.

Besides privacy intrusive default settings and hiding away privacy-friendly choices, the service providers were found to be using “misleading wording”, giving users “an illusion of control”, and having a “take-it-or-leave-it” approach.

Also read: Google Rolls out Training for Game Startups From India, Southeast Asia

The three companies said user privacy was important to them, the BBC report said. (IANS)

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Political ad Spend on Facebook Picks up in April

The 2019 Lok Sabha election is being held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19

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FILE - The Facebook app icon is shown on an iPhone in New York. VOA

Political parties and their affiliates ramped up spending on social media ads ahead of the third phase of Lok Sabha elections, scheduled for Tuesday, show data released by Facebook Ad Library.

Indians spent around Rs 7 crore for running political ads on Facebook and Instagram in the first 20 days of April, while the amount spent on these platforms in February-March was about Rs 10 crore.

Facebook’s Ad Library, a searchable database, includes ads related to politics and issues of national importance run on Facebook or Instagram.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its affiliates continue to lead the ad spending on Facebook. The official BJP page took the top spot in the list of spenders on social media platforms. Of the Rs 1.3 crore that it spent on Facebook, Rs 44.32 lakh was spent during the week ending April 20.

The official Congress page on Facebook spent Rs 56.69 lakh during February-April 20.

However, supporters and affiliates of political parties account for most of the spending on the social media platforms.

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FILE – An Indian man surfs a Facebook page at an Internet cafe in New Delhi, India, Feb. 9, 2016. VOA

For example, the pro-BJP pages — Bharat Ke Mann Ki Baat (Rs 2.23 core), My First Vote For Modi (Rs 1.08 crore) and Nation with NaMo (Rs 1.20 crore) among others — spent much more than the Congress.

Similarly, the pro-Congress page “Bande Mein Hai Dum” spent Rs 2.59 lakh for drumming up support for the grand old party on Facebook and the Indian Youth Congress spent Rs 6.52 lakh on the social media platform.

Among the regional parties, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), the YSR Congress and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) lead the spending table on Facebook.

Also Read- Warning for WhatsApp Users in UAE Issued: Report

On Twitter, the accounts spending over $100 during the past week belonged to BJP MLA from Mandawa Narendra Kumar, Mumbai Congress unit chief Milind Deora, Congress leader and former Union Minister Subodh Kant Sahai, BJD President Naveen Patnaik and the TN Youth Party.

The 2019 Lok Sabha election is being held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19. (IANS)