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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

Social Networking Giant Facebook Interested in Blockchain-based Authentication, Says Mark Zuckerberg

According to The Verge, the risk of further data-sharing scandals is one of the main reasons why Facebook is wary of implementing the change

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Facebook
Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg. VOA

You may soon login to Facebook with Blockchain-based authentication, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has indicated.

In a public interview with Harvard Law professor Jonathan Zittrain late on Wednesday, Zuckerberg said he is “potentially interested” in putting the Facebook login on the Blockchain technology.

“I’m thinking about going back to decentralised or Blockchain authentication. Although I haven’t figured out a way to make this work out but this is around authentication and basically granting access to your information and to different services,” Mark Zuckerberg told Zittrain.

According to him, Blockchain could give users more powers when granting data access to third-party apps.

Facebook last year promoted one of its senior engineers Evan Cheng as the Director of Engineering at its recently launched Blockchain division.

Earlier in May, Facebook set up a group within the company to explore Blockchain technology and its potential use for the platform, headed by Messenger chief David Marcus.

Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to testify before a joint hearing of the Senate Commerce and Judiciary committees on Capitol Hill in Washington. VOA

Media reports also said Facebook was exploring to develop its own cryptocurrency.

Facebook has over 2.3 billion users globally and launching cryptocurrency will allow them make payments using a virtual currency like Bitcoin.

In a statement, Facebook said: “Like many other companies, Facebook is exploring ways to leverage the power of Blockchain technology”.

Also Read- Whatsapp Security Bug Allows iPhone Users Bypass Security Controls

According to The Verge, the risk of further data-sharing scandals is one of the main reasons why Facebook is wary of implementing the change.

“You basically take your information, you store it on some decentralised system and you have the choice of whether to log in different places and you’re not going through an intermediary. There’s a lot of things that I think would be quite attractive about that,” said Mark Zuckerberg. (IANS)