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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)

Next Story

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Probably Having a Secret TikTok Account: Report

In November last year, Facebook quietly released a stand-alone app called "Lasso" to compete with TikTok

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Facebook
Facebook's founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at the Viva Tech start-up and technology summit in Paris, France, May 24, 2018. VOA

Probably to crack the TikTok model, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been spotted via a ‘secret account on the Chinese short video-sharing app TikTok which has become a headache for the social networking giant — from the US to India.

The account is not yet verified but uses the handle “@finkd”, which is the same as Zuckerberg’s handle on Twitter, BuzzFeedNews reported on Wednesday. The account has a modest 4,055 followers without any post.

The account currently follows 61 celebrities like Ariana Grande and Selena Gomez, but mostly TikTok superstars like Loren Gray and Jacob Sartorius.

The report said that in 2016, Zuckerberg invited Musical.ly cofounder Alex Zhu to Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters in California but the talks did not materialise.

In 2017, Musical.ly was bought by Chinese tech giant ByteDance for around $800 million and merged with its existing short-form video app Douyin to form TikTok which has over 800 million users globally, including 200 million in India.

To take on TikTok’s growing popularity, Facebook-owned Instagram has launched a new video-music remix feature called “Reels”.

tiktok
TikTok has over 54 million monthly active users (MAUs) in India. Pixabay

“Reels” will let users make 15-second video clips set to music and share them as Stories.

Just like TikTok, users can soundtrack their ‘Reels’ with a huge catalog of music, or borrow the audio from anyone else’s video to create a remix of their meme or joke.

Zuckerberg recently said that in India, TikTok has gone ahead of Instagram. He also mentioned that TikTok works much like Instagram’s Explore feature.

Also Read: Huami Joins Hands with Reliance Digital to Strengthen its Presence in India

Platforms such as Instagram and Facebook are facing strong competition from TikTok in India. TikTok owner now plans to invest $1 billion in India despite the calls to ban the app.

In November last year, Facebook quietly released a stand-alone app called “Lasso” to compete with TikTok. (IANS)